Boston — Keeping pace with a juggernaut that boasts four first round picks and four second round picks among its impressive list of NHL prospects can be a daunting task.
Harvard broke the puck out of its own zone effectively, played fast through the neutral zone and maintained possession for long stretches en route to a 6-3 win over Boston University and earned the school’s first Beanpot title since 1993.
"Our group felt like it was their night. I was very proud of our guys. We were relentless. It's been a long time coming," said Harvard coach Ted Donato.
"It was a heck of a performance by a very good hockey team. They’re deep. They’re good and they’re well-coached," complimented BU coach David Quinn. "They wanted it more than we did."
It wasn’t just an ordinary triumph. The Crimson outshot the Terriers, 46-17, in front of 15,941 at the TD Garden. It was the first time the senior class had played in the late game of Boston’s most hallowed college hockey tournament.
From the very beginning of the game there was so sign of nerves. Harvard took 38 shot attempts to just four of BU's in the first period, finishing the night with 37 more attempts over the game.
"They had the puck a lot," said Quinn, tersely, when asked why his team was outshot by such a wide margin.
"We stressed [shots] in the beginning of the game. We definitely emphasized getting shots to the net," said Harvard leading scorer and top line center Alex Kerfoot.
There are very few teams in the country that can skate with BU the way Harvard was able to tonight and back in November in a losing effort at Agganis Arena.
"That just goes to show our style of play. We had a lot of offensive zone pressure and generated a lot of opportunities up and down the lineup. When we're playing like that we're tough to keep up with," said Kerfoot, a New Jersey Devils prospect.
"We want to play with speed and play with skill. We wanted this game to be about us," added Donato.
Harvard's defensemen played a key role in the offensive production and in moving the puck up ice. Five of the six goals were scored or assisted by a blue liner and the one that wasn't was a transition tally.
"They were unbelievable. They work at it in practice. They work on their shooting, their passing and their skating. [Assistant] Coach [Paul] Pearl, the defensive coach, has done a great job with those guys," said Ryan Donato, the son of the coach and a Boston Bruins prospect who scored the game's fifth goal.
The Crimson defensemen broke the puck out of their own zone cleanly, pushed the pace in transition through the neutral zone and moved the puck effectively all night. While senior Clay Anderson had two assists Monday, it was a pair of rookies that had the biggest impact in the puck possession game.
Freshmen Adam Fox and John Marino accounted for four shots on goal, one empty net tally and two assists between the two. However, it wasn't just what can be seen on the score sheet that the duo brings to the table.
Fox, a 2016 third round pick of the Calgary Flames, is no stranger to the big stage. The U.S. NTDP alum from Jericho, NY played for the Gold Medal winning Team USA at the 2017 World Junior Championship.
Marino is a local product from North Easton, Mass who played for the South Shore Kings in the USPHL before heading to the Tri-City Storm in the USHL. The Edmonton Oilers prospect showed off his mobility as he carried the puck into the zone on the goal that put Harvard up 3-2 late in the second period.
"Fox and Marino were superb. It's not easy to play under that spotlight and against that kind of talent. [Fox] looked calm and played the way he's played all year. Marino was tremendous for us," said Donato.
Fox and Marino bring a unique ability to carry the puck or pass the puck up ice with precision. Especially when going up against such a talented team as BU, it is imperative to not get bogged down in the defensive zone and transition quickly from defense to offense. The more time you have the puck, the less opportunity for BU's dynamic forwards have to make a play.
"Both Marino and Fox were a big part of our ability to move the puck out of own zone," said Donato. "In general I thought we made very few mistakes and really didn't beat ourselves. Our whole defensive corps was excellent."
Now 18-5-2 and projected to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Crimson have their sets sight on ECAC and national crowns.