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Harvard Looks to Write History at Frozen Four

Harvard Looks to Write History at Frozen Four

CHICAGO -- Behind a program-best 16-game winning streak, No. 3-seeded Harvard advanced to its 13th Frozen Four—and its first since 1994.

The senior-laden Crimson have won every trophy they've played for this season, beginning with a 6-3 dethroning of Boston University on Feb. 13 at the TD Garden to earn their first Beanpot title since 1993. Harvard has not lost since, claiming back-to-back Ivy League championships for the first time since 1993-94 and a share of their first ECAC Hockey regular-season crown since 1994 along the way.

The Crimson have continued their success in the postseason, where Harvard claimed the ECAC Hockey Tournament title for just the second time in the past decade and went on to capture the NCAA East Regional Championship with a pair of victories in Providence on March 24 and 25.

When the Crimson skate onto the ice at the United Center—home of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks—tonight, one could argue that this is already the best Harvard club to grace the ice in more than two decades. But they're not done yet.

Head coach Ted Donato will look to lead his team to the pinnacle of NCAA ice hockey for just the second-time in program history—something he knows a little about as the Most Outstanding Player of the 1989 Frozen Four where Harvard captured its lone national championship.

From experience, Donato knows just how difficult it is to get here. Prior to this season, the Crimson had not won an NCAA Tournament game in 24 years, including Donato's 13-year tenure as head coach. "I'm very proud and very excited for our players," said Donato. "It's very difficult to get here. These guys have answered every challenge thus far."

Beginning tonight, the Crimson will look to answer one final challenge and win one final weekend to be crowned national champions. Harvard has advanced to just three NCAA title games and will need to upset No. 2-seeded Minnesota Duluth at 6 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN2 to get back to the championship game for the first time since 1989.

To do so, Harvard will rely on its high-powered offense, which nets 4.14 goals per game to lead the nation. The Crimson boast four 40-point scorers this season—senior forward Alexander Kerfoot (16-28—44), senior forward Tyler Moy (21-23—44), senior forward Sean Malone (18-24­—42) and sophomore forward Ryan Donato (21-19—40)—but the scoring does not end there. Freshman defenseman Adam Fox (6-33—39), senior forward Luke Esposito (16-20—36) and sophomore forward Lewis Zerter-Gossage (11-14—25) have also contributed at least 25 points during the 2016-17 campaign.

Less heralded is the Crimson defensive unit, which has quietly ascended to fourth in the nation, allowing 2.14 goals per game. Much of that success can be credited to senior goaltender Merrick Madsen, who has been a key cog in Harvard's postseason run. Madsen was named the Most Valuable Player of the ECAC Hockey Tournament after stopping 25-of-26 shots in consecutive games in Lake Placid, N.Y. He also earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the NCAA East Regional, making 41 saves to earn the shutout in Harvard's 3-0 win over Providence and saving 27-of-29 shots in a 3-2 win over Air Force.

To extend its program-best winning streak to 17 games, Harvard will have to stop a Minnesota Duluth side that has won seven-straight entering the Frozen Four, including three-straight one-goal thrillers decided in the final minute of regulation or overtime.

Senior forward Alex Iafallo paces the Bulldogs with 49 points (19-30) and has scored or assisted on a goal in Minnesota Duluth's last 13 games, dating back to Feb. 4. His supporting cast includes a trio of 30-point scorers in sophomore forward Adam Johnson (18-20—38), freshman forward Joey Anderson (11-22—33) and sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk (8-24—32).  

Freshman goaltender Hunter Miska, who is a finalist for the Mike Richter Award that honors the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA Division I hockey, anchors the Bulldog back line with a 2.21 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

Harvard (.829) and Minnesota Duluth (.763) boast the No. 1 and No. 3 winning percentages in the nation, sandwiching No. 1-seeded Denver (.786), which will meet Notre Dame in Thursday's second semifinal at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Thursday's victors will then face off at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN to determine the 2017 NCAA champion.