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Fooling the Skeptics

Men's Hockey

The Harvard men's hockey team knows it lost Allen Bourbeau and Lane MacDonald--last year's two top scorers--to the Olympic team this year. The skeptics don't have to remind them.

The icemen know that they lost nine other members of last year's record-breaking 28-6 season, including Tim Barakett and Dickie McEvoy, to graduation and the pro ranks. Don't remind them.

Men's Hockey

1986-'87 Overall: 28-6 National Semifinalist

1986-'87 Ivy League: 9-1 (Ivy Champs)

Captain: Steve Armstrong

Coach Bill Cleary knows the skeptics pointed to his squad's youth and inexperience. They said that Harvard would not successfully defend its ECAC crown. Too many hungry teams in the league. Cleary doesn't have to be reminded about this.

Three weeks into this season, however, the Crimson finds itself in the same position it was in last year: sitting on top of the ECAC standings with a sparkling 5-0 mark. The icemen have to remind the skeptics about this.

"I don't think it's fair to compare them [last year's team to this year's]," Cleary said. "Last year, we won 15 straight [to start the season] and you just don't do that every year."

But the skeptics overlook Harvard's first-place ECAC reign. They forget that Harvard is ranked fifth in the nation. Instead, these skeptics argue about the team's youth. What about the fact that a freshman goalie has played in every minute of the season due to senior John Devin's injury? Or that freshmen compose one half of Harvard's first two lines? How will these first-year starters respond to a St. Lawrence or a Colgate or an RPI?

As Joe Friday would say: just the facts, please. The first three weeks of the season have been good for goalie Michael Francis. The freshman netminder leads the league in minutes played (303), victories (five) and goals-against average (1.98). With Devin soon to return, Francis' early-season preformance has certainly added depth to the Crimson's netminding tandem and will give Cleary an extra option as the opponents get tougher.

The freshmen group of Peter Ciavaglia (last week's ECAC Rookie of the Week), Ted Donato, Mike Vukonich, and John Weisbrod has proven it can score. This quartet has combined for 11 of Harvard's 27 total goals. That's close to one half of Crimson's goal production.

"The freshmen are starting to get their feet wet," Donato said. "We're going to be part of this team by the end of the season. By that time, all the lessons will be learned."

But while skeptics have emphasized Harvard's youth corps, they have forgotten a few things about the team's 15 returning lettermen--led by Captain Steve Armstrong and sophomore C.J. Young. These are the players who helped win an ECAC title. The players who went to the Final Four in Detroit last year. The ones who were there before when it counted the most.

When it comes to this group, senior defensemen Jerry Pawloski and Don Sweeney direct a Crimson defense that has allowed 10 goals in five games. In third-period play this year, Harvard has given up only one goal. No doubt, the defense is one of the strongest corps in the ECAC.

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