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January 30, 2014 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Harvard Faces Turning Point

by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer

Harvard has shown glimpses of something special this year, but it has displayed inconsistency more often. Finding that spark has proven to be a challenge for the leadership and head coach Ted Donato.

"I think we are capable of making a pretty big jump soon," Donato said. "We have showed signs and we have played in spurts pretty well."

Then again, the same could be said for Harvard during most of the last five seasons.

Harvard, which continues to pile up high-end recruits at a very good clip, struggled last season to win games and was mired in an academic scandal that tore its season apart. It went 10-19-3 overall and finished last in the ECAC, going 6-14-2 in the process. It bowed out in the first round against travel partner, Dartmouth in three games.

To their credit, the team stuck together through last year's woes. But this year, with another fresh start, Harvard has yet to take advantage, and has the look of being right back where it started. The Crimson have just two league wins so far.

Is there pressure for success at Harvard? Yes, there is pressure at every school. But the pressure of righting the ship now seems higher for the Crimson and Donato this year than in most.

"I think the team has high expectations from top to bottom," said Donato, not fully addressing whether there is pressure coming from forces around the program. "We are not going to settle for 'Hey, we have a lot of young guys and it was a close game.' We expect better from ourselves and I think we will get there very shortly."

Said senior captain Dan Ford, "We put pressure on ourselves internally. We want to be successful and we have high expectations for this season. I don't think we really worry about any of the external stuff. All the pressure is coming from the group."

The upcoming Beanpot will provide another test. It's a tournament Harvard hasn't won since 1993, which gnaws in the side of everyone related to the program. Another flameout there could create more restlessness in the natives.

The problem is, this will be a challenge, particularly with how Northeastern and Boston College have been playing. Harvard is a young, raw, talented team. Then again, a lot of teams in college hockey are these days. Consistently, though, the Crimson have the top-rated recruiting class in the ECAC but regularly fail to live up to expectations.

Said Ford, "We talk about how we have a young team with a lot of freshmen but at this point of the season there aren't really any freshmen."

Up front, the Crimson have nights where only one upperclassmen is in the lineup. Freshmen and sophomores are asked to provide a lot of the offense, which it has, but there are nights of struggle. Underclassmen account for 39 of the 44 Harvard goals on the season. Interestingly enough, the defense has only chipped in for two of those goals.

"Some of the young players are gaining some really good experience," Donato said. "I like our team and there are times when we have been a little bit tentative. When we come out to play and we play our game, we can do a lot of good things."

Two freshmen that have impressed in recent weeks, are Shawn Malone and Alexander Kerfoot.

In first periods, the Crimson have been outscored by a wide margin. It is tough to win hockey games when you are spotting a team a two-goal lead out of the first. It has scored just six goals in first periods this season, good for 0.33 per game.

As slow as the Crimson have started, its second and third periods often show signs of life. Each game has run a similar course — spot the lead in the first, pick it up in the second period and then the last five minutes, no matter who they are playing, it is the team that dominates trying to score a tying goal. Unfortunately, that is not a successful gameplan in hockey.

"I think we are capable of being that team that played pretty well in the last 50 minutes against Cornell," said Ford. "There is plenty of time for us, we have showed signs and we have put up some pretty good efforts against some of the best teams in our league."

Turning those into wins is now something Harvard must seize.

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