A quick wrap of 1979-80 Harvard hockey: missed the playoffs for fourth straight year; an 8-15-3 record, 7-11-3 in ECAC Division I, neither much of an improvement from the previous season's 7-18-1 (5-16-1 ECAC) disaster; in essence, more of the same. Yawn. And that's the story.
Well, not quite. You couldn't tell it from small print standings in the Globe or a glance at the stats, but this year's version of Veritas On Skates made a clean break with the past, lent quite a bit of excitement to the campus winter sports scene, and left opponents impressed and even skeptical fans singularly optimistic about the future.
At the outset, it appeared that the biggest change would be not how Billy Cleary's crew skated but where. After a season of scraping the ice at Boston University's Walter Brown Arena before thousands of fans disguised as empty seats, Harvard hockey returned to Cambridge to stay as the newlyrenovated Alexander H. Bright Hockey Center--formerly Watson Rink--officially opened for business November 10, 1979.
The Crimson patriotically went down to a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the U.S. Olympic Team that evening, but its season opening 8-2 victory over Northeastern ten days later indicated that there was more than a refurbished arena to the new look of Crimson hockey.
The big difference was youth--a startling ten freshmen on the squad, a scattering of talented sophomores and juniors and only four seniors. The result was a speedier, more aggressvie and more enthusiastic squad--a competitive and fan-pleasing, if not always victorious, combination.
When it all came together, the end-product excelled--Dave Connors pokes in an overtime goal for a stunning 4-3 roack win over arch-rival B.U.; outstanding performances in the net by Wade Lau lead the way to satisfying wins over the defending ECAC champion University of New Hampshire Wildcats (4-1) and the championship-bound Big Red of Cornell (5-3); freshman defenseman and point-man missile launcher Mark Fusco (13 goals, 16 assists) captured rookie-of-the-year honors while fellow first-year man Greg Olson led the team with 16 goals.
A bitterly disappointing 4-3 loss to Boston College on Beanpot night--after an early 3-0 lead--and some frustrating late-season debacles stifl the euphoria. But, talent-laden and youthful, the Crimson seems a good bet at least to see playoff action when next year rolls around.