Top-10 Battle on Tap Between No. 4/5 Men's Hockey and No. 6/6 Union Friday

Union is the first of two top-10 opponents Harvard will face in the coming days (Gil Talbot).
Union is the first of two top-10 opponents Harvard will face in the coming days (Gil Talbot).
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Live Stats
Last Meeting

No. 4/5 Harvard (16-5-2, 11-4-2 ECAC)
vs. No. 6/6 Union (19-7-2, 12-3-1 ECAC)
Feb. 10, 2017
7 p.m.
Bright-Landry Hockey Center
Live Stats
Ivy League Digital Network
Scott Sudikoff, Marisa Ingemi
L, 1-2 (Jan. 14, 2017)
Harvard leads, 31-15-6
Harvard | Union
Feb. 10, 2017

The Opening Faceoff
The No. 4/5 Harvard men's hockey team faces its first of two top-10 opponents in a row this Friday, hosting the sixth-ranked Dutchmen from Union at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Puck drop on Friday evening is scheduled for 7 p.m. and fans can watch the game live on the Ivy League Digital Network. 

The First Line
• As the college hockey season approaches the end of the 2016-17 regular season, fan's attention will begin to focus more attentively to the PairWise rankings, a ranking system created by USCHO that attempts to predict the NCAA Tournament field and bracket. Currently, the Crimson stand fifth, while Union enters Friday's game in seventh in the PairWise. Those rankings would predict a two-seed for both squads. 

• Harvard and Union are separated by one point atop the ECAC Hockey standings. The Dutchmen lead the league with 25 points, tied with St. Lawrence, while Harvard stands in third with 24 points. Cornell and Quinnipiac trail with 22 and 21 points, respectively. Union and Cornell still have one game in hand over the Crimson.

• Harvard and Union feature the two highest-scoring offenses in the conference this season. The Dutchmen lead the conference with a 3.88 goals per game mark in league games, while the Crimson is averaging 3.47. Overall, the Crimson is scoring at a 3.88 clip, good for third in the country. Union ranks fifth with a 3.79 GPG mark in all its games. 

• The Crimson sports the top winning percentage in the nation at .739 (16-5-2). Harvard is also unbeaten in its last six games, the fifth-longest streak in the nation.

Last Time Out
Harvard used three third period goals, and then staved off a Northeastern charge, to capture a 4-3 triumph over the Huskies in the Beanpot semifinals on Monday. Luke Esposito's shorthanded goal proved to be difference-maker as Harvard earned a spot in the Beanpot final on Monday, Feb. 13 against No. 3/3 Boston University.

Scouting Union
The Dutchmen have joined the Crimson as the constants from ECAC Hockey in the top-10 of the national polls. One week after rising to No. 5, Union enters this weekend at No. 6 in both polls. Union split its two games last weekend, falling 5-3 to Cornell, before bouncing back with a 3-1 victory over Colgate.

Union is led by two upperclassmen forward that are among the nation's best scorers. Senior Mike Vecchione leads the country in points per game at 1.71 (22-26--48). Junior Spencer Foo is tied for fourth at 1.64 PPG (17-29--46). The Dutchmen's netminder, senior Alex Sakellaropoulos, boasts the second-best winning percentage in Division I hockey at .795 (17-4-1). His .921 save percentage ranks 15th in the country, while his 2.44 GAA is 23rd.

Union won the first meeting between the two squads this season, 2-1. 
Series Record vs. Union: 31-15-6
Last Five Meetings: 1-2-2
Jan. 14, 2017 - L, 1-2
Feb. 13, 2016 - W, 4-1
Dec. 4, 2015 - T, 4-4 (ot)
Jan. 30, 2015 - L, 4-5
Nov. 8, 2014 - T, 2-2 (ot) 

Short-handed Success
Harvard has tallied eight short-handed goals this season, its most since it had 10 in 2000-01. Eight shorthanded goals ranks tied for second in the nation this year with Bentley and Boston University. Omaha leads the country with nine. Harvard's most recent short-handed goal came from Luke Esposito in the third period of the Beanpot semifinals against Northeastern. The goal went on to be the game-winner. 

Twice this season, Harvard has netted two man-down goals in the same game. The first came in the season-opener at Arizona by Ryan Donato and John Marino. On Dec. 3, Donato and Sean Malone both scored short-handed goals on an empty net at Clarkson. 

Prior to this season, the last time Harvard scored twice a man down in a single game was Jan. 4, 2014 in a 7-4 win versus Boston University. Malone accounted for both goals.

Stat Sheet Success
Harvard is yet to lose a game this season when either Ryan Donato or Jake Horton scores, dishes an assist or has a plus rating in a game. 
When Donato Has a:
Goal: 8-0-0; Assist: 6-0-0; Plus: 8-0-0
When Horton Has a:
Goal: 5-0-0; Assist: 4-0-0; Plus: 7-0-0 

Rally Caps
For the first time this season, the Crimson overcame a deficit heading into the third period, rallying past Cornell Jan. 27, 4-1. The Crimson trailed 1-0 heading to the last 20 minutes, but Jake Horton, Clay Anderson, Ryan Donato and Lewis Zerter-Gossage all scored to propel the Crimson. 

Horton's Hot
Jake Horton had the hottest scoring stretch of his career from Jan. 27 - Feb. 3. The junior scored a goal in three-straight games, leading the Crimson to conference wins over Cornell, Colgate and Dartmouth. It marked the longest goal streak of his career. He has scored five times this season, a new career-high, while his nine points matches his freshman total.

Hobey Candidates
One year after Jimmy Vesey '16 won the 2016 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player, the Crimson has three new candidates for the 2017 season. Seniors Alexander Kerfoot and Sean Malone, as well as freshman Adam Fox, have each been named a candidate this year. Fan voting is open on the Hobey Baker fan page through February.

Senior co-captain Alexander Kerfoot has been selected as one of the 15 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award for men's collegiate hockey. The announcement was made by the organization Jan. 13. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. 

Home Cooking
The Crimson is unbeaten at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center this season, going 8-0-2.

Power Play Power 
The Crimson has converted on 26.5 percent of its power play opportunities this season. It's 26-for-98 success rate is the fourth-best in the nation. 

Senior Scoring
Harvard's seniors have combined for the most points of any senior class in the nation.
Harvard - 120
Sacred Heart - 106
Boston College - 103

Harvard is boasting a 1.57 scoring margin through 23 games this season, the best mark in Division I. Harvard's offense is averaging 3.87 goals, while the defense has surrendered just 2.29, the 12th-lowest in the nation.

Ultimate Sacrifice
Sophomore defenseman Jacob Olson has blocked a team-high 31 shots this season, helping the Crimson stymie opposing offenses. Alexander Kerfoot leads all forwards with 25 blocks. 

Winner Winner
Harvard's 16 game-winning goals this season have come from the sticks of 10 different skaters. Tyler Moy and Luke Esposito have three; Sean Malone and Alexander Kerfoot have two, while Clay Anderson, Ryan Donato, Frédéric Grégoire, Jake Horton, Devin Tringale and Lewis Zerter-Gossage each has one game-winner to his credit this year.