Women’s Hockey Alum Chosen to Represent Olympians

February 26, 2010 by

Among casual sports fans, her name may not earn the immediate recognition of Bode Miller, Apolo Anton Ohno, or Lindsey Vonn, but when it came to selecting a representative, Olympic athletes chose Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 of the US women’s hockey team, currently competing for a gold medal as I write.

Ruggiero was selected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, which represents the concerns of athletes to the IOC.

The 2004 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, Ruggiero won gold with the team in 1998 in Nagano before taking silver with the team in Salt Lake City and bronze in Turin.

When interviewed by NBC after the first period, Ruggiero said she was “thrilled” to be selected to the 19-person committee. Ruggiero was selected for an eight-year term along with bobsledder Adam Pengilly of Great Britain.

The selection will allow Ruggiero to express the views of athletes in Olympic planning. But it won’t help her against Canada, which currently has a two-goal lead in the gold-medal game.

Among casual sports fans, her name may not earn the immediate recognition of Bode Miller, Apolo Anton Ohno, or Lindsey Vonn, but when it came to selecting a representative, athletes chose Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 of the US women’s hockey team, currently competing for a gold medal as I write.

Ruggiero was selected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission. The athletes’ commission represents the concerns of athletes to the IOC.

The 2004 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, Ruggiero won gold with the team in 1998 in the Nagano Olympics before taking silver with the team in Salt Lake City and bronze in Turino

When interviewed by NBC after the first period, Ruggiero said she was “thrilled” to be selected to the 19 person committee. Ruggiero was selected for an eight year commission along with bobsledder Adam Pengilly of Great Britain.

The selection will allow Ruggiero to express the views of athletes in Olympic planning. But it won’t help her against Canada, which currently has a two goal lead in the gold medal game.

High Admissions Standards Hold Back Wrestling Program

February 25, 2010 by

If one theme has characterized recent Harvard wrestling history, it has been individual success overshadowed by constant injuries that stifle team performance. Watching grappler after grappler go down can undoubtedly be frustrating, but co-captain J.P. O’Connor vented his frustration at a different source over the weekend, suggesting that the problem may not be how many guys go down, but rather how few there are to replace them.

After finishing the dual season a disappointing 2-14-1 with lopsided losses to No. 6 Cornell (44-6) and Columbia (30-15) last Friday and Saturday, O’Connor reflected on the difficulty of keeping pace in the Ivy League.

“When you’re sending out guys who aren’t necessarily your No. 1 guy, it’s tough to be competitive,” O’Connor said. “It’s kind of been a trend since I’ve been here. We don’t have the depth that other schools have. We need a little more backing, by which I mean admissions backing, to be a competitive program in the dual season.”

O’Connor—not often one to mince words—did not hold back here in his implication that the Crimson wrestling team suffers from the school’s stringent standards. Of course, holding talented applicants to rigorous academic standards is nothing new at Harvard, and it goes without saying that Crimson athletics would improve with more relaxed admissions cutoffs. Still, O’Connor’s remarks serve as a reminder that often the small sports are hit hardest, when each rejected potential team member represents significant depth lost from the roster.

Nonetheless, O’Connor and co-captain Louis Caputo make the situation seem far from hopeless. Regardless of the impact that “admissions backing” has on the team’s performance, clearly two of its stars could compete for any wrestling program in the country. As O’Connor (157 lbs.) and Caputo (184) stand at No. 1 and No. 6 in their respective weight classes, Harvard can look forward to two legitimate runs at the national title in March.

Three Crimson Players Selected For All-ECAC Teams

February 25, 2010 by

Three members of the No. 4 Harvard women’s hockey team were honored on All-ECAC teams, the league office announced this afternoon.

Junior forward Kate Buesser, junior defenseman Leanna Coskren, and freshman forward Jillian Dempsey all earned recognition for their efforts in conference play this season.

Buesser headlines the group, as she earned a spot on the conference first team. The winger was second in the league in scoring, tallying 32 points in 22 ECAC games. Buesser leads the Crimson with 35 total points this season on 13 goals and 22 assists, and she is tops in the conference with a +22 rating for the season. The junior was named a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award last week.

Coskren, a third-team selection, is also a Kazmaier finalist. The blueliner has 17 points on the season, including six goals. She is 18th in the nation amongst defenseman with 0.59 points per contest and anchors Harvard’s third-ranked defense.

Dempsey earned a spot on the conference’s All-Rookie squad after a season in which she ranked eighth nationally among freshmen with 0.79 points per game. Dempsey is second on the Crimson with 23 points this season on 10 goals and 13 assists.

In additional news from the ECAC office, senior Randi Griffin, the reigning conference player of the week, is a nominee for the ECAC Hockey Student-Athlete of the Year award. Griffin scored four goals over the weekend, including her first career hat trick.

Harvard earned the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, which begins this weekend. The Crimson hosts sixth-seeded Princeton in a best-of-three series beginning Friday night. The puck drops at 7 pm at Bright Hockey Center.

Alumnae Square Off for Gold

February 24, 2010 by

All five of Harvard’s 2010 Olympians will be playing for gold on Thursday.

Only two teams remain in contention for Vancouver’s top prize, and as predicted, the two-time defending world champion American squad will take on the favored Canadians in the gold-medal game.

As has become the norm in this Olympic tournament, Crimson alumnae featured prominently in both of yesterday’s semifinal wins.

In the early game, the US squad took on Sweden with revenge on its mind. The Swedes shocked the Americans in the 2006 Olympic semifinals, charging back from a 2-0 deficit to win the game in a shootout. It was the first time a US or Canadian squad had ever fallen to a non-North American opponent in international competition.

In 2010, the American women guaranteed that they would improve on their bronze-medal finish in Torino, routing Sweden, 9-1. With Swedish netminder Kim Martin, who plays for Minnesota-Duluth, not on her game, the door was open for the US offense—and the Americans capitalized.

Monique Lamoureux, who will suit up for the University of North Dakota next year, tallied a hat trick while all three Harvard players got in on the fun.

Caitlin Cahow ’07-’08 led the way with a goal—a long shot from the point that banked off the top right corner of the cage and fell in—and an assist. Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 tallied the team’s third goal, while Julie Chu ’06-’07 assisted on Kelli Stack’s third-period score.

In the nightcap, the vaunted Canadian offense hit a bit of a roadblock: Finnish goaltender Noora Raty, who excelled in the crease for the University of Minnesota this season before joining her national team.

Raty held the Canadians to five goals on 50 shots, but Finland’s offense offered the standout no support, and the hometown favorites advanced to the final with a 5-0 win.

Sarah Vaillancourt ’08-’09 assisted on Haley Irwin’s goal, with the other assist credited to star Cornell forward Rebecca Johnston. Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03 was again quiet—the veteran has just one assist in these Olympics—but she will have the chance to earn her third-consecutive gold medal later this week.

The US and Canada will face off for Vancouver’s top prize at 6:30 pm EST on Thursday. The game will be broadcast live on MSNBC and nbcolympics.com.

Crew Keeps Rowing

February 19, 2010 by

Almost any college athlete will say that his or her sport’s season lasts all year long no matter what the official schedule might say. Between the summer training, preseason exhibitions, weight lifting, conference games, and postseason tournaments, there’s little time left.

This is especially true for the Harvard men’s and women’s crew teams. Although they are officially spring sports, both train during the summer break, participate in fall races such as the Head of the Charles, and even keep competing throughout the winter months.

That said, the teams usually head to more hospitable environments to avoid Cambridge’s frigid temperatures and the frozen river. A training trip to Miami was a welcome excursion for the squads during winter break, and just last weekend some Crimson rowers headed to Boston University’s Agganis Arena to compete in the CRASH-Bs World Indoor Rowing Championships.

In the annual event, participants take to the aisles of erg machines lined up across the arena’s floor to individually sprint 2Ks against the clock. Although world-class rowers have set several records at the event, most competitors recognize that the indoor set-up is most likely not the best measure of how an athlete will fair in a real regatta.

With this dilemma in mind, some rowers have come up with another solution for what to do when their usual waterways freeze over: row on ice.

While the new technique isn’t exactly widespread, some rowing groups have pioneered newly designed “boats” especially for such practice. They have attached blades to the bottom of the boat and use ice picks in place of oars to help the boat glide smoothly across a frozen river or lake.

One Massachusetts man has even patented his own design that he describes on his website as a combination of elements from iceboats, bicycles, and rowing shells to create a vehicle powered by traditional rowing movements.

Harvard’s teams may not be adopting the novel idea anytime soon, but don’t be surprised if you see a daredevil or two trying it out on a nearby pond or even a still-solid section of the Charles.

Four Women’s Hockey Players Nominated for Kazmaier Award

February 18, 2010 by

Continuing a storied Harvard tradition, four women’s hockey players have been nominated for the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to the best player in collegiate women’s hockey.

Senior Christina Kessler and juniors Kate Buesser, Liza Ryabkina, and Leanna Coskren are among 45 nominees for the award. The list of nominees was released by USA Hockey today.

Kessler, a goaltender, finished her career with the Crimson career wins and shutouts records, as well as the NCAA career save percentage record. The senior held a 9-3-3 record this season before her year was ended with an ACL injury in January, but she still ranks fifth nationally in save percentage (.944) and sixth in goals-against average (1.39).

Buesser, a forward, is Harvard’s leading scorer this season, tallying 33 points on 13 goals and 20 assists. She ranks second among ECAC players with 30 conference points, and stands 19th nationally with 1.22 points per game.

Ryabkina has been an offensive force since returning from a dislocated knee in late November, scoring 11 goals in 18 games. Five of those goals came in the Beanpot, and the winger was named tournament MVP for her efforts. Ryabkina’s four game-winning goals are good for eighth in the country.

Coskren’s 16 points are tops among Crimson defenders, and her 15 conference points are third-best among ECAC blueliners. The majority of Coskren’s offensive production has come on the power play, and she is tied for first in conference play with 10 power-play points. The junior also anchors Harvard’s defense, which ranks second nationally with 1.44 goals allowed per game.

The Kazmaier Award has gone to a Crimson player six times in its 12-year history. A.J. Mleczko ’97-’99, Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03, Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04, Julie Chu ’06-’07, and Sarah Vaillancourt ’08-’09 are Harvard’s previous winners, with Botterill taking the trophy twice.

The top 10 finalists for the award will be announced on March 2. The Kazmaier trophy will be presented on March 20 in Minneapolis, Minn. in conjunction with the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four.

—Kate Leist

Men’s Lax Poised for Success

February 17, 2010 by

If football season seems like it took place a decade ago, or if you can’t understand the multiple tie-breaker scenarios in men’s basketball, here’s something to get excited about: men’s lacrosse.

After four straight losing seasons from 2005-2008, Harvard coach John Tillman led his squad to an 8-5 overall record in 2009, including a signature win at No. 5 Duke in the season opener. While last year the Crimson may have had the fortune of flying under the radar, every squad will have its date with Harvard circled on this season’s calendar. The Crimson is ranked No. 12 in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll, but it won’t catch any breaks throughout the season, as Ivy foes Cornell, Princeton, and Brown also broke the top 20. If you haven’t noticed yet, this is one of the only sports in which the Ivy League can lay claim to being the nation’s premier conference.

With the season opener just ten days away, look for Harvard to have a breakthrough offensive year to help its young defense and alleviate the loss of goalie Joe Pike. Sophomore attack Jeff Cohen was the Crimson’s leading scorer last season with 34 goals, good for seventh nationally in goals per game. Junior attack Dean Gibbons was right behind him with 21 goals, and the freshman duo of Jack Doyle and Peter Schwartz, part of a top-three national recruiting class, will be expected to make an impact early.

The Crimson will host Canisius in its season opener Saturday, February 27th, at Cumnock Turf.

—Colin Whelehan

Former Harvard Players Faring Well

February 17, 2010 by

As the Harvard women’s hockey team enters the final weekend of its regular season entangled in a tight race for postseason home-ice advantage, five of its alumnae are playing for a different kind of hockey prize.

The Olympic women’s hockey tournament opened on Saturday in Vancouver, and Americans Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04, Julie Chu ’06-’07, and Caitlin Cahow ’07-’08 and Canadians Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03 and Sarah Vaillancourt ’08-’09 are skating for Olympic gold.

The Americans and Canadians are far and away the top two teams in the world and are both heavily favored to advance to the gold-medal game—though as the US team learned in 2006, being favored is not enough, as the Americans were upset by Sweden in the semifinals and had to settle for bronze. But through three days of competition, both squads are living up to the hype.

Canada set the tone in front of its hometown crowd on Saturday with an 18-0 shellacking of Slovakia, the biggest offensive output in Olympic history. Vaillancourt had a goal and two assists against Slovakia and followed up that performance with a goal and an assist in a 10-1 win over Switzerland yesterday.

Botterill added an assist on the Canadians’ final goal in Saturday’s rout.

Not to be outdone, the Americans cruised to a 12-1 win over China on Sunday afternoon. Harvard players bookended the scoring for the US squad, with Ruggiero opening the game with a breakaway backhand early in the first before Chu capped the game with a tally off a rebound from American captain Natalie Darwitz.

Chu also had two assists on the afternoon.

The US team takes on Russia this afternoon at 5:30 pm Eastern time. Both the Canadians and the Americans still have their toughest preliminary matchup ahead of them—Canada plays Sweden tomorrow, and the US plays Finland on Thursday. Those four teams are favored to advance to the medal round.

Olympic Mishaps Don’t Bode Well

February 15, 2010 by

Even with planning that began a decade ago, the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada have already had their fair share of mishaps before competition even began.

The first came early Friday, when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili suffered a horrific crash during a training run at the Whistler Sliding Center. Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled and flew over the outer barrier, slamming into an unpadded metal pole. Attempts to revive the unconscious 21-year-old failed, and he was pronounced dead after being airlifted to a local hospital.

Kumaritashvili’s crash was one of the most horrible accidents in recent Olympic history, but it was not entirely unforeseen. Not only was a luger killed in the sport’s first introduction to the Olympic games in 1964, but concerns were also raised about the Whistler track in particular. In just two days, there were three separate crashes, including another where the athlete was airlifted from the track that many are calling too fast and too dangerous for competition.

Worries of another kind have arisen at more of Vancouver’s Olympic venues as well, especially the ski hills. Last week’s rain and relatively warm temperatures turned the Whistler runs into a collection of soggy slopes and have delayed women and men’s downhill races until no earlier than Monday.

Olympic officials have been working frantically to improve conditions to racing standards, even carting in snow to the site for freestyle skiing and snowboarding at Cypress Mountain.

Finally, as if Kumaritashvili’s tragedy and the dismal weather weren’t enough, the week was capped off by a noticeable blunder in Friday’s elaborate opening ceremony. Due to a mechanical failure, one of the four colossal architectural pillars failed to rise during the climactic lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

All that the Olympians and officials can hope for now is that the opening ceremony marked the closing of Vancouver’s streak of misfortune.

Lin Leads Fan Voting for Cousy Award

February 12, 2010 by

Now that the Harvard men’s basketball team has fallen twice in league play midway through conference schedule, the chance of the Crimson’s Jeremy Lin matching up against Kentucky’s John Wall come March have disappeared.

But while the battle between these two guards on the hardwood will have to be postponed indefinitely, Lin and Wall have been pitted against each other in another contest.

Lin, a senior from the Ivy League hoping to extend his playing career beyond his graduation, and Wall, a freshman-phenom likely to be selected first overall in this June’s NBA draft, are two of the eleven finalists for this season’s Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.

Although Lin does not fit the traditional mold of a Cousy Award winner—Lin is the only player represented from the Ivy League and one of three from a team outside the BCS conferences—the 6’3 guard has received far greater fan support than any of the 10 other candidates.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lin had received 42.6% of the fan votes, placing him miles ahead of the second largest vote getter, Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez, who had received 24.2% of the vote. Wall sat at a distant third with 15.9%.

Although it looks like Lin will run away with the fan vote, which closes in March, it remains unlikely that Lin will take home the award.

The winner of the award is ultimately chosen by selection committee comprised of 30 NCAA coaches, hall of famers, and media members. Taking the award away from Wall, who leads the No. 2 team in the country in points, assists, minutes, and steals per game, should prove to be a tall task.

To Lin’s credit, the three-time Ivy League player of the week has outperformed Wall statistically, averaging more points, rebounds, blocks, and steals per game. With that being said, ultimately the lower level of competition Lin has played against should do in the Harvard co-captain.

The winner of the award will join the ranks of past winners, Ty Lawson, DJ Augustine, Acie Law IV, Dee Brown, Raymond Felton, and Jameer Nelson, each of whom was selected in the NBA Draft.