Malone's Defining Moment
Talented Senior's Hat Trick Leads Harvard to Finals
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Sean Malone has always been a talented player, that has never been in question. But in a career of fits and starts, he never had that defining moment.
In the ECAC semifinals against Quinnipiac, that changed. Malone had his moment and led Harvard to its third consecutive ECAC championship game. The talented winger scored a hat trick and put on a show in the process, including a highlight-reel deke on his final goal to finish it off.
The hat trick was the first in the ECAC semis since 1997, when Todd White did it for Clarkson. It is also the first hat trick during the championship weekend since 2009 (Sean Backman, Yale).
“I think it was just one of those nights where you get a couple of bounces and just finish it,” Malone said. “It isn’t every game that you get three point-blank chances like that, I was fortunate to see them go in for me.”
“To me, he is one of the best players in the league,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “There is a lot of good players around the league and it has been tough to get the recognition he deserved. He has really been a team-first kind of guy all year. I agree, this has been a defining moment for a talented guy that hasn’t exactly gotten the recognition he deserved.”
It hasn’t just been the ECAC semis, it has been the whole postseason and regular season for the Buffalo draftee. In three games in the ECAC tournament, Malone has four goals and five assists. On the season, Malone is the Crimson’s top scorer with 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists).
“I think we are getting used to that (production), especially in the playoffs,” Harvard forward Luke Esposito said. “You need your best players to step-up this time of year and I think we have seen that. We needed a spark and the greatest thing about this team, it can come from anywhere. Tonight it was Sean.”
The season has just been a renaissance for him and the talent he knows that he possesses. He was drafted in the sixth round by Buffalo after a spell with the USNTDP. It has been a career riddled with injuries and ailments. In two consecutive offseasons Malone had hip surgeries that stunted his development, growth and production.
“The last couple years, when he had surgeries, he struggled to find a rythym,” said Donato. “I think if you asked coaches around the league, there would be a lot of respect for the dynamic player that he can be. We are happy to see him playing so well right now.”
He has been a strong player in his career, but these moments were few and far between because he has been in and out of the lineup so often.
“I am starting to feel like myself again,” said Malone. “I definitely put a lot of work to get to where I am now, it is nice to see if finally paying off.”
The hat trick on Friday night was the first of his collegiate career. He has shown flashes with two-goal bursts on a few occasions.
"There were large stretches of the season where he was outstanding for us," said Donato. "But he got sick late in the season and didn't have the finish he would have liked. He didn't get the recognition because of that. There is a lot of respect for the talent he possesses. As a team, we are blessed to have two dynamic centermen."
Part of a talented line that includes Esposito and Tyler Moy, the trio have just clicked. The three are roommates, and all are NHL draft picks.
“A lot of my success in the postseason thus far has been our line,” said Malone. “We have a lot of chemistry and we have played together all year. We all complement each other very well in terms of our style of play. When we all firing, at all angles, it is going well for us.”
Malone’s success coupled with a deep roster has led Harvard to a landmark year that can only get better. It already had an impressive regular season trophy haul that included the Beanpot, an Ivy League title and an ECAC Cleary Cup as regular season champions.
“We have established our identity that we wanted to create,” Malone said. “We went through a lull midseason and people were sort of questioning us. I just think we go into every game, we know we are going to win.”