Harvard: Crimson struggle in past ‘pots

Harvard: Crimson struggle in past ‘pots

We’re not the only ones in a drought.

Another major collegiate hockey team in the Greater Boston area has a slight Beanpot problem.

Harvard has not gained college hockey’s most famous prize since 1993. This fact is often overlooked by casual observers, obsessed with Northeastern’s now long-standing troubles.

And while the Cambridge/Allston crew has improved significantly in recent years under the tutelage of former Catholic Memorial (West Roxbury), Harvard and Boston Bruins star Ted Donato, there is the usual anxiety that comes with facing either Boston College or Boston University in the first round (Harvard faces BC in the first round at 8 p.m.)

Harvard’s 9-12-1 (7-9-1 ECACHL) record is deceiving. While clearly worse than the team’s previous years of success, the Crimson play a schedule that Northeastern could relate to. Most recently, Harvard tied No. 18 Quinnipiac 2-2 and lost 4-2 and 4-3 to No. 8 Clarkson and No. 17 St. Lawrence, respectively.

That’s exactly the type of experience and strength of schedule necessary to be prepared for the Beanpot.

The definition of an “off year” does not exist in either BU or BC’s school dictionaries, but Harvard, like its fellow underdog Northeastern, is fully capable of catching either team off guard. The Crimson are not a regular Hockey East foe, but maintain the kind of recruiting and schedule that must be respected by either of the two dominant Boston programs.

It was only last year the Crimson handed the Huskies a demoralizing 5-0 shutout in the Beanpot consolation game.

If a team is ready and fully rested, the Beanpot can be anyone’s trophy.

Harvard lacks an offensive standout, but is led by veterans Kevin Du (3-15-18), Ryan Maki (10-5-15) and Jon Pelle (7-9-16) in scoring. For the team to get past BC, it needs Du to display the explosive skating he is capable of.

Harvard also maintains a young defensive nucleus, as freshman Alex Biega (4-10-14) and sophomore Brian McCafferty (1-11-12) have been the most productive and reliable.

Goaltending duties are split between senior Justin Tobe and freshman Kyle Richter. Richter has the slight edge in goals against average (2.58 to 2.73), and one could understand why Donato gave Richter the playing time when examining the save percentage (.910 to .887 in Richter’s favor).

For Harvard to have a chance to skate on the Beanpot’s biggest stage against either BU or Northeastern, it will need its offense to take advantage of any defensive miscues by BC. The Eagles, led once again by the indomitable Cory Schneider, prides themselves on defensive traps and physical play. Harvard will need to squeeze by and grab an early goal.

The Crimson will also need to shut down BC’s 6-foot, 7-inch NHL-caliber Brian Boyle. No easy chances must be donated, nor can Richter (or Tobe) allow for any soft goals. Every chance must be appreciated and every bit of strong offensive movement not taken for granted.

No one said a Beanpot drought could be eliminated the easy way.

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