October 20, 2012 by Casey Hart
Friday was quite the night in college hockey, but the only game I have watched so far was an exhibition between Harvard and McGill. As best as I can recall, it is the first Crimson game since 2005 that I have watched while not on duty for Harvard. Alas, I can’t resist sharing my observations.
Exhibitions obviously don’t mean everything—Harvard lost to McGill before its league-championship season of 2005-06—but they can be revealing. Case in point: last year’s 7-4 defeat of Western Ontario. The Crimson’s 4-for-9 showing on the power play proved a harbinger of things to come, as did Alex Killorn’s three-point performance and the four assists from the freshman class. Luke Greiner scored twice to show he was ready for his best year so far, and Conor Morrison’s four points now serve as a reminder of what could have been had he not missed most of the season with an injury.
Then again, we talkin’ ’bout practice. Nevertheless:
• It’s good to win. It’s especially good to win in dominating fashion against a team that had already played eight games (four exhibitions, four regular-season games; four wins, four losses overall) and won its country’s national title last season. While the most important aspects of exhibitions are probably getting the players used to playing competitively again and giving the coaches a look at their personnel options, winning is still important. It helps momentum, morale and confidence. And for this team, it bridges the gap from last season’s late success to Saturday’s opener against Bentley.
• Harvard scored three goals in barely seven minutes to open the game in a start that was reminiscent of the 2008 Beanpot opener against Northeastern. It was a hint at the type of explosiveness that I think could get this Harvard team over the hump to compete for championships.
• Luke Greiner scored twice (again), including once on a shorthanded breakaway, but what jumps off the scoresheet are the three goals by members of the Class of 2016. Defenseman Desmond Bergin scored on a wrist shot from the center point after Morrison won the puck in the corner in the game’s seventh minute. Fourth-line center Brayden Jaw finished off a mini-breakaway just 25 seconds later. Jimmy Vesey, skating on the second line with Colin Blackwell and Morrison, cashed in on a pretty passing play involving all three forwards with his shot from the slot on a second-period rush.
• Perhaps Harvard’s most imposing task this season is replacing Killorn. It will obviously take a group effort to overcome the loss of 46 points, but in terms of Killorn’s on-ice roles, the job looks to have fallen to Greiner and Vesey, who totaled three goals. The senior centered classmates Marshall Everson and Alex Fallstrom on Harvard’s top line. The rookie, meanwhile, occupied Killorn’s No. 19 jersey and his spot on the top power-play unit. Vesey even looked a little like Killorn—at least on the online video stream—with his big frame, left-hand shot and appearance on the scoresheet. In addition to his second-period tally, he was initially credited with the goal on Bergin’s shot after causing trouble with a screen in front.
• The Crimson looks deep. Three of the four lines scored goals. The lone goal McGill tallied came against Harvard’s top forward line and top defense pair.
• Harvard surrendered just 18 shots on goal and did not allow the puck to linger long in its zone. Dan Ford moved the puck up ice particularly well and notched two assists.
• Raphael Girard played the entire game in net and was rarely tested. My guess is that head coach Ted Donato kept him in there the whole time because A) McGill wasn’t getting many shots, and B) Harvard scrimmages Brown today, and that should provide the opportunity for Steve Michalek and Peter Traber to face some rubber.
• There were certainly reminders that it was Harvard’s first competitive action. There were turnovers on which McGill didn’t capitalize and less-than-perfect finishes when the Crimson could have scored even more goals. That’s what exhibitions are for.
• As reliant on its power play as Harvard was for much of last season, going 0 for 6 last night could be worrisome, but I don’t think it looks like a problem right now. The first power play came when the game had barely started and two others were shortened by Crimson penalties. Of the remaining three advantages, Harvard looked very good on two and had trouble setting up on the other. I find the four even-strength goals and one shorty (matching the team’s total from last season) to be a much bigger part of the story.
• Harvard’s top four returning scorers totaled one point, a Fallstrom assist. This is a not a bad thing. That group, consisting of Danny Biega, Everson, Fallstrom and Patrick McNally, looked fine and will get its share of goals. Getting five goals from other players should encourage Harvard fans.
• Finally, a bit of uni-watching: Harvard has new jerseys. As in, the actual garments; the design features only fairly small changes. The arched Harvard wordmark appears taller, thinner and more legible. It also looks like there might be a lace-up collar, but it was tough to tell from the online feed. McGill, meanwhile, sports a look similar to that of a certain annual visitor to Bright Hockey Center (white road helmets notwithstanding).