The past weekend held more than enough thrills and disappointments to keep any Harvard sports fan happy. There was Jim Kubacki's shoulder to worry about. There was Tim Davenport and his Frank Merriwell miracles to make the Princeton game a memorable one.
So anyone who follows Harvard's teams is probably walking around Cambridge mumbling something like, "Beat Brown" or "Bring on the Elis." But lest we forget in these Indian summer days, another hockey season is taking shape down at chilly Watson Rink.
The scene at Watson is reminiscent of two years ago. That year Harvard had graduated the bulk of a team that had been ranked number two in the East the year before, including such standouts as Dave Hynes and Bob McManama. The word two years ago was that it would be a rebuilding year for the Crimson.
This year's Crimson team is also coming off a big year. Just to briefly relive the glories of last season, Harvard was the top-ranked ECAC team with a 19-1 record, Ivy titlist with a phenomenal 12-0 mark, and it compiled a perfect 12-0 Watson Rink record.
However, 12 of the players that made last year so memorable have graduated, and Don Bolduc is taking the year off to play for the Olympic team.
But if you talk to any Crimson skater, you'll find that the term "rebuilding," which implies that this year's Crimson team may not be at the head of the ECAC pack, is a dirty word.
"We're going to make a lot of mistakes early," goalie Brian Petrovik said, "but I'm very optimistic. Bill Clearly-coached hockey teams just don't lose many games."
To begin with, the offense won't be as strong as last year. To be sure, Harvard will get its share of goals, but the kind of firepower that blew off the ice last year will be lacking.
The top line will bring together three of the few holdovers from last year. Captain Kevin Carr will center Paul Haley and Kevin Burke, all seniors. Carr is the hardnosed type, and his instincts for being at the right place at the right time are unmatched by any other Crimson player. Burke is one of the flashiest skaters on the squad, while Haley is noted for his hustle and aggressiveness.
The second line will consist of freshman George Hughes between junior Dave Bell and the team's other freshman, Gene Purdy. Hughes may be the Crimson player to watch this year. Last year he prepped at Choate, but before that he set all sorts of Mass. high school records for Malden Catholic and was the top high school player in the state. Bell, perhaps the fastest skater on the team, was a regular last season. Purdy's excellent play, on the other hand, has been something of a surprise.
The third and fourth lines, however, bring essentially untested players to the fore. Junior Bill Hozack will center the third Trio with senior Phelps Swift and Mike Leckie on wings. All were letterman last year, but saw only limited action.
Precisely how a fourth line, an innovation Cleary has employed with success in the past, will fit in is in some doubt. That line will have Bryan Cook at center with Wiz Wyatt and Bill Horton on the flanks.
As last year, the defense model needs to be rebuilt. Harvard lost three starters--Eddie Rossi, Steve Janicek, and Larry Pitaelli--leaving only Todd Nieland and swing-man Jon Schuster.
Cleary will use these two veterans to steady four newcomers, three of whom are sophomores. Kevin O'Donoghue and Jim Liston will be paired with Nieland and Schuster respectively. Bob Leckie (Mike's brother) and Ken Dummitt will be the reserve defenseman.
If there is any area that is clearly a Crimson strength, it's the goaltending. All-American Brian Petrovik is back, and his capable back-up, John Aiken, also returns. Petrovek was by far the nation's finest college goalie last year, recording an under 3.00 goals against average for the season.
There should be a few noticeable differences in this year's style of play.
"We'll be more of a hitting club," said sophomore defenseman Mike MacDonald, "because we can't match the speed of last year's team."
Also, the lack of experienced defensemen will mean that the forwards will do a lot of backchecking. The emphasis on forwards who play at both ends has always been a Billy Cleary trademark, but is the grueling three-hour practices that Cleary has put his charges through are any indication, he'll be expecting his forwards to be backchecking even more this year.
"We've been emphasizing total team defense a lot," said Captain Carr, "like forwards coming back and picking up men, and working closely with the defense."
It's clear that every Crimson player will have to work harder this year.