Ryan Donato is tied for the Harvard team lead in goals. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Led by Ryan Donato, seniors, Harvard looks to stay hot in Frozen Four

April 05, 2017 - 4:15 pm

After winning its first Beanpot in 24 years and capturing the ECAC regular-season and tournament titles, it was clear that Harvard had a special group this season. The Crimson’s run continued in the NCAA tournament, as they ended up the lone New England representative in the Frozen Four in Chicago, where they will face Minnesota-Duluth Thursday night at 6 p.m. Harvard is seeking its first national title since 1989, when head coach Ted Donato won it as a player.

The Crimson’s path to Chicago was paved by a dominant stretch run, including their current 16-game winning streak. The last time the Crimson lost a game was Jan. 14 against Union, a 4-1 defeat that was the last in a three-game losing streak before Harvard found its groove.

Led by Boston Bruins prospect Ryan Donato, the Crimson are a group that is defined by its depth. That depth was going to be tested and questioned from the moment Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey graduated, but the Crimson have convincingly filled any perceived void.

Donato, a sophomore, is third on the team with 40 points. Ahead of him are Tyler Moy and his 44 points, as the Nashville Predators prospect has had four multi-point games over his past six. He has three goals already in the national tournament, including two in a 3-0 win over Providence.

Also with 44 points is New Jersey Devils draft pick Alexander Kerfoot, a Hobey Baker finalist who has tallied at least a point in eight of his last nine contests while playing with Donato and Lewis Zerter-Gossage on the top line. Buffalo Sabres prospect Sean Malone, who skates alongside Moy and Luke Esposito on the Crimson’s second line, a line of all seniors, has contributed 42 points, and 10 of those came in the ECAC playoffs alone.

Donato’s 19-point jump (so far) from his freshman campaign has obviously been big, but a lot of credit for Harvard’s success has to go to the seniors.

Harvard was faced with the task of replacing Vesey and fellow graduated first-line forward Kyle Criscuolo, who had combined for much of the Crimson’s offense over the past three seasons. The emergence of the senior second line has given the team extra depth to allow players like Donato to shine on the top line.

Freshman defender Adam Fox also has made a name for himself. A member of the USA junior team that won gold in December, the Calgary Flames prospect has 39 points this season.

Harvard matches up against the Bulldogs of Minnesota-Duluth, who advanced to the Frozen Four after knocking off Boston University in overtime. The Bulldogs also had to defeat Ohio State in an extra frame the night before and have played 12 overtime games overall this season, the most in the nation.

Joey Anderson, a Devils prospect, scored the game-winner on a power play against BU and is third on the team with 34 points. Senior Alex Iafallo’s 49 are the most on the team. Goalie Hunter Miska has had a strong freshman season, posting a .919 save percentage. He troubled a high-scoring BU team in the quarterfinals, keeping the Terriers out of the net for most of the game before they tied it late to force overtime.

Miska matches up with Crimson goalie Merrick Madsen, a junior who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers. Madsen has a .922 save percentage on the season, but is at an even more impressive .938 since Jan. 20. Madsen posted a 41-save shutout against Providence in the first game of the national tournament, then stopped 27 shots as Harvard beat Air Force 3-2 in the regional final.

On the other side of the bracket, the lone Hockey East representative, Notre Dame, takes on No. 1 overall seed Denver. The Fighting Irish knocked off UMass Lowell in overtime in the regional final, a little over a week after the River Hawks had dominated the Irish in the Hockey East semifinals. Denver, meanwhile, advanced to the Frozen Four after defeating a Penn State team that was making its first NCAA tournament appearance. Notre Dame is leaving Hockey East after this season for the Big Ten, so this will be its last time playing under the conference umbrella.