Ice Hockey, Sports

Harvard coach praises Terrier power play

Harvard men’s hockey coach Ted Donato had a few interesting things to say after his squad’s 5-4 win over Boston University on Monday. However, one comment, more than the others, turned quite a few heads among media members who regularly cover the BU hockey team.

“They have a very good power play,” Donato said about the Terriers.

As one straight-faced media member said to another after the presser, “That’s the first time I’ve heard that this year.”

Truth is, the power play Donato saw from BU on Monday looked very different from the one that’s skated a man-up for most of the season.

The Terriers netted three goals on six chances, pelting Harvard goalie Ryan Carroll with 14 shots.

The performance was easily among the best for BU this season. The Terriers were an abysmal 0-for-6 on the man-up against University of Massachusetts-Amherst last week.

For the season, the Terriers had converted 17-of-146 chances (11.64 percent), good for second-to-last in Hockey East, and at times, it was tough to figure out how they’d even gotten those 17.

The power play has been a focal point in practices all season, according to BU coach Jack Parker, but it wasn’t until Monday’s game that the repetitions seemed to bring about any changes.

For most of the year, the Terriers were rigid in their positioning, settling for perimeter passes along the squad’s umbrella setup.

The Terriers continued to run from the umbrella formation Monday, but operated in a much more fluid manner from the set. Defensemen at the point would often skate deep into the zone, swapping positions with their forward counterparts and playing from the corners for large chunks of their shifts.

Among the most aggressive defenders was freshman Garrett Noonan, who, as Parker said in his post-game presser, may be the most effective blue-liner on the BU lineup card.

Noonan spent nearly an entire shift posted atop the Harvard crease during a power-play chance early in the second. Sophomore forward Alex Chiasson replaced him at the point for most of that time.

That power play didn’t result in a goal, but when BU got another chance midway through the second, Noonan again took on the power-forward role. This time, the freshman’s efforts paid off as classmate Charlie Coyle found Noonan open next to the goal post, where he had little trouble finishing.

Even more remarkable was the difference in BU’s shot selection –– namely, what they tried accomplishing when they put the puck toward net. For much of the season, when BU’s point men have tried to shoot, they’ve unleashed full-forced slap shots that have often been blocked by defenders.

On Monday, BU often opted for precision over power with softer wrist shots in the direction of teammates’ sticks.  The result was fewer blocked shots immediately cleared from the zone, and more difficult saves for the opposing netminder.

Of course, it’s worth noting that BU was playing Harvard. It doesn’t take an Ivy League scholar to point out the Crimson’s 5-18-1 record and 80.4-percent penalty-kill rate are fairly unimpressive.

Still, the power-play performance – and particularly the improved process –– are among the few positives to take from Monday’s loss for the Terriers.

The consolation-game defeat has left the Terriers’ tournament hopes in dire straits. A few more 3-for-6 power-play showings might go a long way toward fixing the situation, though.

A little inspiration

Wins may be sparse over in Cambridge these days for the Harvard hockey team, but perspective isn’t.

Earlier in the season, the team “adopted” 12-year-old Nathan Potvin as an honorary team member, and the middle-schooler has since been a constant presence around the squad.

At age five, Potvin was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor, but after a series of procedures, the disease went into remission.

Seven years later, the tumors returned, and now Potvin is in the middle of a rigorous 15-month stretch of chemotherapy treatment.

The Friends of Jaclyn foundation put Potvin ––a youth-league hockey player –– in touch with the Harvard hockey team. The 12-year-old has his own spot in the Crimson locker room, and last Friday, skated onto the ice for pregame introductions along with the varsity squad.

“I will say that we’ve enjoyed every second we’ve had Nathan with us,” Donato said. “He’s a great kid. He’s really been a tremendous role model for us in the fact that he’s so courageously fighting cancer.

“His persevering through what is an incredibly difficult time, it lends a lot of perspective to our group.”

Brown receives standing ovation

Matt Brown, the Norwood teenager paralyzed after breaking two cervical vertebrae in a high school hockey game last winter, received a lengthy standing ovation from the sold-out TD Garden crowd Monday when the arena Jumbotron showed him in his luxury box.

Despite being in the middle of one of the most exciting Beanpot finales ever, even the players took a moment to recognize Brown, tapping their sticks on the ice and the boards as a sign of acknowledgment.

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