Points are at a premium in the ECAC, with just two games left, and the Saints head to Dartmouth and Harvard needing to pick a single point in order to lock up a first round bye. Four points would obviously be ideal, but given the injuries this team has faced, a week off is desperately needed, and will go a long way in helping the Saints get back to Lake Placid.
SLU will face Dartmouth on Friday, a game in which they should absolutely pick up at least a point. Dartmouth is always a threat in their own barn, especially since they have good scoring talent that can appear out of nowhere. As a team, Dartmouth doesn’t score much, but guys like Troy Crema and Corey Kalk can break the game open if they’re given too much space.
Defensively, The Big Green struggle about as much as they do offensively, allowing close to 3.5 goals per game. A SLU offense that has been stuck in neutral the last four games will get an opportunity to find it’s rhythm before taking on Harvard on Saturday.
Dartmouth’s penalty kill is nothing to write home about either, succeeding 74.6% of the time, and for the Saints, who are likely to pick up a few power plays against a Dartmouth team that doesn’t mind spending time in the box, this is an opportunity to get the man advantage working as well. After a torrid stretch in the middle of the season, where SLU scored a PPG in 8 straight games, it’s been a bit of a struggle for the Saints on the man advantage, but a weak Dartmouth PK will provide a good chance to oil the gears ahead of a marathon game against the Crimson.
Hopefully by the time SLU shows up at Bright-Landry, which will inevitably be filled by mostly SLU fans, they’ll have already locked up a first round bye, but SLU fans should still expect a competitive game between the two. Harvard is a threat for their national championship, and have more skill than any other team in the ECAC up and down their lineup, making them a nightmare for any team.
Tyler Moy has been on fire of late, and is tied with Alex Kerfoot for the team lead in points with 33. Sean Malone follows with 31, and a pair have 30, including rookie defenseman Adam Fox. Merrick Madsen is 20-5-2 with a 2.18 GAA and a .917 save percentage, and the Crimson as a team allow 2.22 goals per game. They’re well rounded, but their weakness is on the defensive side of the puck.
Their special teams are indicative of how dominant a possession team Harvard is, which is what allows them to put up such unreal offensive numbers. Most of the time spent on the PK is done so without the puck, and Harvard’s PK succeeds just 82.3% of the time. Their power play, where puck possession is a given, clicks at 25.2%.
Thus, the key to Harvard is to limit turnovers, make the smart play, and keep the puck away from them as long as possible. They’ll force their turnovers, get their shots, and probably a few goals too. But SLU can beat Harvard, if they truly make them work for every turnover they force and every shot they take. SLU is the slower team, but they’re much more physical, and if the Saints can hang tough through the first two periods, Harvard struggles the most in the third. (Struggles isn’t really the right word, since the Crimson still outscore opponents 44-28 in the third)
That’s pretty much the secret to beating Harvard, and yes, it’s much easier said than done, but for a team on a bit of a skid that might be looking to prove a point, this is exactly the kind of game SLU can steal from the Crimson. It wasn’t that long ago that SLU was atop the ECAC standings, and even if they’re out of the running for the regular season title, the more important ECAC tournament title is still up for grabs. One point this weekend earns SLU a bye, but four gives them worlds of confidence entering their week off before the playoffs begin.