It's not quite the halfway point of the season, with Harvard having completed 12 of 29 overall games, including 9 of 22 league games. The season got off to a good start for the Crimson as they took two of their first three games, shutting out a ranked RPI team at home and then beating St. Lawrence on the road for a mild winning streak. Things soured quickly for Harvard beginning with a loss on the road to Clarkson, starting a seven game losing streak to close out the calendar year. The first day of 2011 saw several negative streaks broken for the Crimson, as their win over Army was the first win since the St. Lawrence game and the first regular season win over a non-conference opponent in sixteen games, with Harvard's last win in that situation coming in the first round of the 2008 Beanpot against Northeastern. It was also the first win this season for the Cantabs after giving up the opening goal. The Crimson could not keep the momentum going, however, as they fell 3-1 to Vermont the next night.
Below the jump, I'll break down the forwards, defensemen, and goaltending for the Crimson, take a look at the road ahead as well as the ECAC.
Forwards: Harvard's offense has been anemic to say the least. Harvard is in last place in the country in scoring offense as the only team in the nation not averaging at least two goals per game. The Crimson are only averaging 1.83 goals per game, despite having only been shut out once. They have had only five multi-goal games, going 2-3 in them. Alex Killorn has been the lone bright spot for the Crimson as the centerman has scored the game-winner in all three Harvard wins (tying him for third in the nation in that category). He's on a 6-game point scoring streak and has had a point in all but two of Harvard's games (the 2-1 loss to Union and the 1-0 loss to Princeton). He has six goals (of 22 team goals) and four assists (of 39 assists) in the 12 games. Eric Kroshus (3 goals, 6 points) and Michael Biega (2 goals, 7 points), both spending a majority of their time on a line with Killorn, round out the top three point scorers among forwards. 10 forwards have scored for the Crimson but it has not been enough. Performances against Merrimack (15 shots) and Union (16 shots) stand out as the worst offensive games from the Crimson this season while the games against St. Lawrence and on the road against Quinnipiac showed what this offense is capable of.
Defense: At the beginning of the season, one worry for Harvard was a young and inexperienced defense, with only Chris Huxley, Ryan Grimshaw and Danny Biega returning with significant minutes on the blue-line. Brendan Rempel, who saw limited time last year, has been better than last year, showing more confidence and better positioning, but his -5 is the worst of the Harvard defenders. The two freshmen, Danny Fick and Dan Ford, have been impressive so far, picking up six points offensively and playing reasonably well defensively. Crimson fans have a lot to look forward to with those two on the blue line. Pete Starrett has been unable to break into the lineup, playing one game, at Dartmouth, and being on the ice for two goals. Rookie John Caldwell also saw his only action in that game, splitting time as a defenseman and a fourth line center. His size will be helpful for Harvard in years to come but he looks raw at the moment. Harvard is 37th in the country in scoring defense, just behind St. Lawrence and ahead of other ECAC teams including Quinnipiac, Colgate and Brown, as well as local rival Boston University. Harvard gives up an average of 33 shots per game, with the best performance coming against Army (15 shots against) and the worst coming at home against Dartmouth (45 shots against).
Goaltending: Kyle Richter has been the mainstay for the Crimson so far this season, starting in all but one of Harvard's 12 games. He has a respectable 2.50 GAA and .919 save percentage. Particularly early in the season, Richter willed his team within striking difference. His shutout win against RPI was probably the highlight of the season so far, but he also kept the Crimson in the game in their 2-1 loss to Union, 1-0 loss to Princeton and 3-1 loss to Merrimack. He was pulled in consecutive games, removed from the game in Hamden against Quinnipiac and then the next weekend at home versus Dartmouth, two games where he never looked comfortable. Ryan Carroll looked good in relief against Quinnipiac but did not perform well against Dartmouth in relief or in his start on the road against Dartmouth the following night, and he has a 4.87 GAA and .889 SV%. Rookie Raphael Girard had mop-up duty in Harvard's 8-2 loss to Dartmouth, giving up 2 goals on 5 shots. Still, the freshman brought an energy to the game, racing into the corners to send long passes up to his forwards. He's a good puckhandling goaltender and his compete level will be high when he gets his chance between the pipers.
Special Teams: The Crimson are only taking 10.7 minutes of penalties per game, one of the lowest of any team in the country. The power play is among the worst in the league and country at 11.9% (5 of 42) and only American International has drawn less penalties. The penalty kill is 37th in the country at 81.8% (36 of 44) with one shorthanded goal (Rence Coassin at Quinnipiac).
Around the ECAC and Boston: The ECAC has four teams ranked in the USCHO poll. Yale, undefeated in the league, is a near-unanimous number one and should run away with the Cleary Cup. #10 RPI and #15 Union are undefeated at home (a combined 14-0-1) but are beatable away from the Capital District. #19 Princeton are on a five-game winning streak and are tied with Yale at 12 points for the league lead (but with three extra games played) but home losses to Clarkson and Dartmouth raise some flags. The Big Green are dangerous when clicking, which is not 100% of the time, but if they get hot for the playoffs they could potentially grab the ECAC auto-bid in Atlantic City. Clarkson is playing above expectations (currently fourth with 9 points) while Brown is doing well out of conference (2-2-3) with ties against #4 UNH and #14 BU as well as a 6-1 win over BU in the recent Shillelagh Tournament. Cornell and Colgate are uncharacteristically struggling and are languishing at the bottom of the standings. The Raiders, in particular, are winless in the league and have only 3 wins in 18 games, all coming over struggling Atlantic Hockey teams (2 versus Army and another against Sacred Heart.) Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence round out the middle of the standings. Among local opponents, Boston College (13-5 overall, 1st in Hockey East) is ranked third in the country, Boston University (8-5-6, 3rd in Hockey East) is ranked fourteenth, and Northeastern (3-9-4, 7th in Hockey East) is unranked.
International Roundup: Harvard has a few connections to the on-going World Junior Championships in Buffalo. Sweden, who beat Harvard 2-1 in an exhibition earlier this year, clinched their group with a shootout win over Canada to earn a bye to the semifinals where they will face Russia. Meanwhile, former Harvard forward Louis Leblanc has three goals, three assists and a +7 rating through five games, with a SHG and GWG and 2 PIM. He has taken 13 shots and has a 23% shooting percentage and has served as a spark for Canada's lines. Leblanc and Team Canada face a stiff test in the semifinals against the United States in a gold-medal rematch. Team USA has some ECAC ties as well, as they are coached by Yale's Keith Allain and feature last year's ECAC rookie of the year, Jerry D'Amigo (formerly of RPI). Andy Iles (Cornell) is the US's backup goaltender, while Beanpot rivals BU (Charlie Coyle) and BC (Chris Kreider) also feature on the team, as well as Harvard alum Chad Morin's younger brother, Jeremy.
Up Ahead: The schedule does not get any easier for the Crimson in the month of January. They face a dangerous Brown Bears team at home this Friday, followed by a Saturday night game against #1 Yale. Then, it's two tough road games in Boston as Harvard visits Boston University and then Northeastern in a Beanpot preview, followed by road games to Union and RPI. To close out January, cellar-dwelling Colgate and arch-rival Cornell skate in to the Bright. Come next Monday, Harvard will have finished half their ECAC season, so they need to start winning if they want to be at home for the first round of the playoffs.