By: Jarett Leonard
Like its Beanpot championship opponent, the Harvard men’s hockey team has had its fair share of ups and downs this season. But unlike Boston University, the Crimson come into this year’s final riding an extended wave of momentum.
Harvard is unbeaten in its last seven contests and has won five straight games, most recently a 6-2 thrashing of No. 6 Union College on Friday night. The win allowed the Crimson to leap past Union and into first place in the ECAC standings with four games remaining, but more important, it helped Harvard continue its hot streak into the Beanpot championship.
The year began in a similar fashion, as the Crimson came flying out of the gates with a five game unbeaten streak at 4-0-1. A difficult stretch then set Harvard back a bit, with losses to two then-seventh ranked opponents in Quinnipiac and BU, but the Crimson did capture a 5-2 home win over then third-ranked Boston College in between to manage a 5-2-1 record before Thanksgiving.
Harvard then got on a roll during the holiday season, winning its next six contests, five of them by three goals or more, to move all the way up to the second and third positions in the two national polls. However, it did not last long for the Crimson, as they dropped three straight road games to Rensselaer, No. 11 Union and Dartmouth in mid-January before following that with their current seven game unbeaten stretch over the last month.
Offense has carried the Crimson to this point, as they have put up the third most goals in the nation at 3.96 per game and their power play unit is fifth best in the country at 24.7 percent. That production has been spread around the top six scorers, with seniors Alexander Kerfoot, Sean Malone, Luke Esposito and Tyler Moy, sophomore Ryan Donato and freshman Adam Fox all earning north of 24 points at this stage. Kerfoot leads the team with 30 points while Donato has a team best 15 goals and Fox has 24 assists, tied for tenth most in the country.
The Crimson power play, which at one point was close to the nation’s best unit, has cooled off as of late. Over its current seven game unbeaten streak, Harvard has converted on just three of its 25 opportunities on the man advantage. But the defense has made up for it, as they have allowed less that two goals in six of those seven contests.
That defense has been anchored by junior goaltender Merrick Madsen, who sports a 17-5-2 record with a 2.22 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. He has started all 24 games for the Crimson, and outside of two games during Harvard’s three game drought in January in which he was pulled, he has been a solid backstop for the Crimson.
After the Beanpot final, Harvard and Union will have four conference games remaining, with the two teams along with St. Lawrence battling for the top spot in the ECAC. The Crimson have built plenty of momentum heading into the Beanpot final, and they will look to continue that down the stretch and into the postseason.