ECAC Title Just Another Notch in Belt For Harvard
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. The ECAC championship ends; Harvard is the ECAC champion.
Strange thing: Harvard doesn't really celebrate a title won over its biggest rival Cornell. Instead a few players raise their sticks, the ceremony gets going and it looks subdued.
Of course it most assuredly did mean something, another trophy, more pride. The title was its 10th in the ECAC tournament and its second in three seasons.
"This was a championship we really wanted, Harvard captain Devin Tringale said. "We had a really good focus to our game and we knew what we wanted this weekend. It seems like a culmination of a really good season. But we are in no way done yet."
The Crimson are thinking bigger because they have not lost since early January, 16 straight unbeaten. They are the 3rd overall seed in the NCAAs, and have every reason to believe they are a championship contender.
"I think we were just kind of all excited," said Harvard sophomore Ryan Donato. "We have been winning a lot of championships and have been feeling pretty good. I think if one guy started to throw his equipment, everybody else would have. We kind of held back a little bit, but we were all really excited about this."
One could suppose a team that has won as much as Harvard has this season, figured it was just another title on the way to what really matters to the Crimson.
It could have also been the fact at that point the game was relatively in hand, a 4-1 win, and there was time for the team to think about its accomplishment.
"it was kind of the way ended," Tringale said. "The celebration wasn't as elaborate, as maybe the Beanpot or when we won it the sophomore year. We are definitely enjoying this moment. I also think that a lot of guys are looking ahead to next weekend."
Its current senior class will go out with two Whitelaw Cups to its credit. Considering where the program was just five seasons ago, this class has revolutioned Harvard hockey. But success in the NCAAs has eluded not just this class, but a lot of them. Harvard made five straight NCAAs from 2002-06, and didn't win a game. This is its third straight trip and it hasn't won yet.
"This senior class, has played in three straight ECAC championship games and has won two," said Donato. "Obviously we haven't had that type of success in the NCAA tournament. This is a group that has been very focused all year. I think they are incredibly excited to win, but they know there is more to play for."
This season the Crimson have won the Beanpot, the Ivy League Title (Insignificant to most, but significant to the six schools), the ECAC regular-season title and now the league's tournament championship.
"Just hearing you list off all those (the championships), brings a smile to my face," said Tringale. "It has been pretty surreal. There has been a lot of hard-work and dedication put into building a team like this. It is unbelievable for everything to be coming to fruition, like this."
Harvard has just five losses on the season and has proven it can win everything the league has to offer. In terms of what it has done against ECAC teams, the Crimson have been dominant. Saturday night's ECAC championship game against Cornell was just one more example of this. It picked up an early goal, had great goaltending to keep the dream alive and it built a 4-0 lead. It ultimately won 4-1.
There have also been moments where things would be questioned. An 8-4 loss to Dartmouth will go down as its last loss of the regular season, a pretty demoralizing one at that. It seemed to expose some big issues that the Crimson and its young defense possibly had.
Last weekend in the ECAC quarterfinals, even more questions could have been asked when Yale took leads into both third periods and Harvard had to come back to win both, sweeping the series.
Before they can even think of things like the Frozen Four, the program needs to get a big monkey off its back — it needs to pick up a win in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994.
"Everything starts this week in practice, staying really sharp," said Tringale. "Our mentality needs to be — we need to have a little bit of a killer-instinct. We need to be focused and not have any let ups. it has been a while since we have won one in the NCAA tournament. That would be a huge thing to check off.
"I think by our measures, we would count it as a successful year but a year that just wasn't good enough. We have really big expectations. From the seniors down the lineup we are really proud of all our accomplishments, but I think our eyes are on a higher prize right now and we definitely would be disappointed with a bad result."