On Monday night, the Harvard Crimson skated in an exhibition game against The Swedish Junior National Team. The result, a 2-1 win for the Swedes, still was a good one for the Crimson. (Sweden lost to Merrimack at 12 noon on Tuesday, a 4-1 L. They play D-III Williams College tonight at 7pm, and UMass on Saturday at noon) Here's my take from the game.
1. If I have to pick just one thing clicking for the Crimson, it has to be their forecheck. Harvard did a great jump of pinning Team Sweden in their own zone for stretches of the game, particularly in a first period where the Crimson outshot Sweden 15-5. Harvard played aggressively and won the battles in the corners. Harvard's lone goal came as the result of a turnover just outside the Swedish blue line, forced by the pressure the Crimson applied in the zone.
2. On the opposite side, the glaring negative for right now has to be the power play. This is not too worrisome because it's early in the season and the PP needs time to figure itself out. On the other hand, Harvard's power play never really got going last season after a slow start either, with the Crimson converting 17% of their chances, good for 39th in the country. In this game, the Crimson were 0-9, though some PPs were abbreviated, but 0 goals and 8 shots in 16:33 of PP time isn't going to cut it. Harvard's first PP unit (Killorn, M. Biega, Moriarty up front, Morrison and D.Biega on the point) generated some pressure, particularly in the 3rd. Harvard did not show a 2nd PP unit though, with Coach Donato just cycling his lines to see who would earn PP time. A good PP could be a boon on Saturday- RPI is averaging 15.4 PIM/game.
Below the jump, I have the rest of my five thoughts, the lines from Monday, and an audio game recap.
3. Sticking with the special teams theme, the Crimson did a great job of killing seven of the eight penalties taken, including two five on threes in a row. Luke Greiner's trip on the PK gave the swedes about 30 seconds of 5 on 3 time. As that got killed, Brendan Rempel received a slashing call, giving Sweden another 20 seconds of 5 on 3. David Valek was the best killer for the Crimson, blocking several shots, including during the 5 on 3s. Of course, the game winner came on the power play, as Rempel took a cross-check at the 12:30 mark of the second and Sweden converted less than a minute later. Sweden did get off 12 shots, going 1-8 in 8:57 of PP time. While the kill was good, the penalties need to come down this weekend; Union's PP is number one in the country, converting at a gaudy 43.2%, while RPI is in the middle of the pack right now with a 17.2% conversion rate.
4. One thing I've been noting through a lot of season previews has been the fact that Harvard was dreadful at the faceoff dot last season. This did not look likely to improve, as the top two faceoff-men, Rogers and Leblanc, are no longer in Cambridge. The early returns are favorable for the Crimson, though, as Alex Killorn went 9 of 13 on faceoffs, Alex Fallstrom went 5 of 7, and the team won 27 of 50 overall. The one glaring exception to the faceoff feel-good is Colin Moore, as he went 1 of 7 on the night. That the Crimson could still have an advantage at the dot despite an off night for Moore bodes well for that stat going forward.
5. Keith Kinkaid of Union is 10th in the nation with a .934 save percentage, and a thousandth or so behind him is Allen York of RPI, 13th in the nation with a .934 save percentage. If Johan Gustafsson were an NCAA goaltender, he'd probably be in that mix, based on his performance on Monday. He played tremendously (and might have the most natural talent of any goaltender Harvard will face this season), flashing the pads to keep the Crimson at bay. That said, all those pad saves meant plenty of rebounds, but save for Ryan Grimshaw in the first, no one was there to put any of them away. Against York and Kinkaid, the Crimson will need guys in front, to provide screens and jam home rebounds. If those two can see pucks, and if Harvard is limited to one and done on shooting attempts, they are not going to give up many, if any, goals.
Harvard Lines from Monday:
M. Biega, Killorn, Moriarty Huxley, D. Biega Richter
Morrison, Moore, Kroshus Ford, Grimshaw Carroll (DNP)
Everson, Greiner, Fallstrom Fick, Rempel Girard (DNP)
Coassin, McCollem, Del Mauro Starrett
Sweden Lines from Monday:
Landeskog, Rensfeldt, Rohdin Berglind, Andersson Gustafsson
Pettersson, Johansson, Rakell Granberg, Fantenberg Steen (DNP)
Everberg, Sundstrom, Sorensen Klingberg, Claesson
Andersen, Boyce Rotevall, Jonsson Noren
Audio Recap of Harvard vs. Sweden: