Crimson Hockey reinvigorated despite final loss.
By TUSHAR DWIVEDI
Recently, my hometown of Chicago has been abuzz in the world of hockey. With the rise and prominence of the Blackhawks, a new pride has enveloped the city that not just complements, but often overrides the typical baseball, basketball, and football interests. However, while I have not been to United Center, Chicago’s prime hockey and basketball stadium, in almost a year, the Harvard’s men’s ice hockey team just returned from their visit. This visit, however, was far beyond the ordinary. The team was representing Harvard in the Frozen Four for the thirteenth time, and has a storied legacy filled with success. The team, however, had yet to show in the championship since 1994, and their last championship victory was in 1989. As a result, Harvard’s most recent trip brought a wave of raised expectations – but more importantly, a wave of excitement that truly transcended the pressure involved in competition.
Harvard’s journey to the Frozen Four included one of their most dominant regular seasons, in which they won 28 times, to go with few losses. Theses victories included a Beanpot title as well as the Ivy League conference championship; their past two victories included 3-0 and 3-2 victories, with their last win over Air Force coming after shutting down the team’s comeback attempts in the second and third periods. In the last 18 games before its semifinal match at Minnesota-Duluth, the team had won 17 of team; thus, their hot streak, as well as their consistent dominance all season, awakened the hopes of Harvard fans hoping to see the Frozen four title return to the team.
Almost two decades ago, in 1989, the Harvard team rose to a championship victory in a now unique fashion; their most valuable player for the tournament was Ted Donato – current head coach for the Harvard team. Although this season primarily included a string of victories, the coach helped lead them through a lone period of struggle, tremendously successfully. After losing three games within the span of a week, Harvard bounced back under Donato’s leadership to win the Beanpot, and extend a winning streak that would last almost 18 games.
While Harvard’s NCAA tournament representation has been impressive, their success in the opening rounds of play has been limited. Starting in 2002, the team had yet to make it past the opening round in 7 straight appearances, extending all the way until 2016. This year, however, marked for a strong change, as the number two in the country ranked team took down Yale in the initial matches. Following that match, the team then started off strong with a 3-0 lead over Air Force. While Air Force pushed back strong with 2 points in the span of just 15 seconds nearly halfway through the game, Harvard remained steadfast in holding their lead and emerged victorious.
With the game tied at 1-1, both teams, and many fans in the United Center, waited to see who would break the tie with less than a minute left in the semifinal. With Minnesota scoring first, and with just about 27 seconds left in the game, the pressure was on the Harvard team to pull out a miracle and try to tie. With one final attempt, Harvard’s shot bounced off the crossbar, and Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the title game. While the outcome certainly disappointed the team, their efforts this entire season, not just in Chicago, resulted in a campus reinvigorated by hockey. Breaking through the constant expectation of an opening round loss for the past decade and a half, and providing incredible memories through the Beanpot and Ivy Conference Championship victories – that made this season truly one to remember for the team, as well as their many fans here at Harvard.
Tushar Dwivedi ([email protected]) can’t wait to return to Chicago and the United Center to see another game of great hockey!