Harvard opens its Ivy hockey schedule tonight at 8 p.m. at Watson Rink against the strongest Brown team in more than ten years, and you'd have to say that the home team's chances don't look good.
Last season's Bruins split two overtime games with the Crimson while finishing second, one notch ahead of Harvard, in the Ivy League. But while Harvard has lost virtually all its scoring power and half its defense through graduation, Brown has 13 of its 16 lettermen back this season.
Among the returning Bruins is half of last year's All-Ivy team. Forwards Terry Chapman and Leon Bryant who anchor Brown's two high-scoring lines, were tops in the league last year with 42 points apiece. Defenseman Bob Gaudreau's 21 points was third-highest in the East among back-liners.
A comparison of this season's records of tonight's opponents also indicates a long night for Harvard. The Crimson, plodding along at 1-2 has beaten only pathetic Bowdoin 4-1.
Brown's 3-2 record doesn't sound too impressive either until you look at its opposition. The victories include one-sided affairs against powerful Boston College (7-2) and R.P.I. (4-1), as well as an 11-1 rout of Bowdoin. Undefeated Boston University, topped the Bruins 3-1 while much-improved Northeastern beat them 4-2.
Crimson Needs Goals
Harvard will have to come up with a much stronger offense than it has been able to mount so far if it hopes to challenge the Bruins. Kenny Burnes, with just three points in four games, is the Crimson's high-scorer; the line of Baldy Smith, Pete Miller, and Gordie Price has only one goal to show for its efforts.
The Crimson defense proved it could handle the best in the East when it shackled B.U. for three periods before the Terriers scored in overtime. But the defense has its lapses. Against Army, its failure to clear the puck from in front of the net cost the Crimson three goals.
Unless Harvard's young skaters improve radically as they gain experience, they will have trouble with every Ivy team but Princeton this year. Co-favored with Brown is Dartmouth, which has most of its championship team of last season returning.
Cornell and Yale, bolstered by excellent crops of sophomores, also have a good shot at the title. Cornell has already knocked off last year's ECAC runner-ups St. Lawrence, and last weekend Yale beat Cornell.
But Harvard hasn't thrown in the towel yet. Last year at this time the powerful Crimson travelled to Providence expecting an easy win to mark the beginning of the road to the Ivy crown. Instead, Brown overcame a 2-0 deficit late in the third quarter, and pulled out a 3-2 overtime win.
Tonight it is Brown's turn to be pretty confident. And history can repeat in reverse.