Benson, Evans, McDonald and Murray: Another First-Year Phenomenon Hits the Ice
Although many freshmen find it difficult to feel their existence acknowledged, a quartet of frosh hockey players has already distinguished itself in this first half of the 1978 campaign.
Combining for 18 of the team's 54 goals so far this season, Rick Benson, Phil Evans, Bob McDonald, and Tom Murray have enlivened an 8-4 skating squad that is currently ranked fifth in the ECAC.
The offensive contributions of the four forwards are distributed equally, with Benson emerging as the team's second leading goal scorer with six tallies, trailing only junior phenom George Hughes. McDonald's ten assists prove his reliability as a playmaker, while Evans and Murray have added five and four goals respectively.
Murray commented that "College hockey is much quicker and rougher than high school." Still, Evans was thankful for better officiating in college games. "On my team last year, there wasn't one game we played where there wasn't a fight. In college play, fighting is strictly forbidden."
Murray praises his upperclass teammates in helping him adjust to the faster college game. "In high school, the older players looked at you as someone who might take their job away," he said. "Here, the upperclassmen look at you as someone who'll help Harvard hockey." Benson said that there is more camaraderie on the Harvard team than on any team for which he has ever played.
Evans feels the coaches have also been instrumental in the freshmen's learning experience. "We're being taught a lot about the special teams, especially penalty killing." Evans, described by Benson as a wing who "always comes out of the corner with the puck," was a first team All-Star pick in the Ontario Hockey Association last year, and a number one draft pick of the Major Junior "A" Hamilton Fin-Cups. He declined the offer in order to play college hockey.
As the leading scorer in Massachusetts in 1976, McDonald led his Winthrop High School Squad to an undefeated season and the State Division 1 championship. McDonald defies hockey logic at almost six feet and 150 pounds, and Murray calls him "a snake with the puck, an excellent stickhandler." Although sidelined with a dislocated elbow for two to three weeks from an injury sustained in Tuesday's 7-4 triumph over St. Lawrence, McDonald has the third highest total point tally on the team.
Benson, on his way to becoming a Boston Globe All-Scholastic pick, led the 1977 edition of the Needham High School Rockets to the finals of the Eastern Massachusetts championship. The team did not even qualify for the tourney in Benson's previous two varsity years.
Still, Murray calls Benson a player he "hated, couldn't stand" in high school, when Murray was captain of the Natick High team which was runner-up to Needham last year in the Bay State League. The two seem to have resolved their former rivalry as they are both linemates and roommates. Benson even designs to label Murray "the fastest skater on the team and a great forechecker as well as a superb penalty-killer." They have combined for 10 goals and 10 assists so far this year.
The value of these players became apparent in the early season come-from-behind victory over New Hampshire. Murray scored twice, and McDonald once, with Evans tying the match later in the game. Benson then drove home the game-winner.
After last year's narrow loss of an ECAC playoff berth, the Watson rink faithful are more impressed with the rookies' performances. With Harvard headed for a playoff spot this year, all agree with Murray's thinking that "College hockey is more fun."