At most schools, the jersey would be hanging from the rafters. Last night at Bright Center, it was hanging from the slim shoulders of Paul Howley.
Number 9 once belonged to Harvard's all-time leading scorer. Now it belongs to this year's JV scoring leader and the varsity's new fourth-line left wing.
Last night, Howley made everyone remember Scott Fusco. After all, number 9--Fusco's old jersey--hadn't been seen on the Bright ice since Fusco graduated last year. When Howley skated in front of the home crowd, the ghost of Fusco was not far behind him.
But just as quickly--with two goals and some fancy skating-Howley, playing in only his second varsity contest, made everyone forget Fusco, as the Crimson jumped over Colgate, 8-3.
Howley's blast from just inside the blue line with 13 minute left in the second period gave Harvard a comfortable 3-1 lead. His breakaway goals with 10 minutes gone in the final period lifted the Crimson to a 7-3 advantage. It also got the fans--lulled by the Crimson's dominance--onto their feet. Screaming madly. Howling for Howley.
"It feels great," Howley said. "On the first goal, I didn't think I could beat the goalie. But I shot. You see a spot and you just hope you can hit it."
Colgate goalie Wayne Cowley reached for the puck, but it slipped above his glove and into the right-hand corner of the net. Howley had his first collegiate goal. The announcement came: "Harvard goal by number 9--Paul Howley. Number 9? Howley? It seemed a little strange.
"On the second goal, I got a beautiful pass from Murph [John Murphy]," Howley said. "I didn't realize I had a breakaway until I looked up and saw that there was no one in front of me."
Cowley jumped out of the goalie's box to try to stop the shot, but Howley snuck the puck past Cowley's left pad and into the net. The red light came on for Howley a second time. The announcement came again: "Goal by number 9--Paul Howley." Strange.
After Howley's second goal, his teammates mauled him near the blue-line. It's not often you see a JV player jump into an important game and score a pair of goals. Maybe the magic of the jersey number rubbed off on Howley.
"I've been number nine since I was four or five," Howley said. "It was a little tough taking it here."
Howley, a sophomore and the owner of two career points, has a long way to go to break Fusco's all-time scoring records of 107 goals and 133 assists. And before he even thinks about doing that, he'll have to improve his defense.
"His strength is his offensive game," JV Coach Kevin Hampe said. "The varsity coaches will have to work on his defensive skills."
"He's got a good game," Hampe added, "and he's a tough kid. He'll make it."
If the jersey fits, why not wear it?
"We call him 'The Duke," Harvard Captain Peter Chiarelli said. "He's got a nice shot and he's been scoring all those goals for the JV team."
It's unlikely Howley will have to perform again for the handful of spectators who turn out for JV games. He's made an impression on the Bright crowd and on his new coach.
"It shows how bad a coach I am not to have used him until now," Harvard Coach Bill Cleary said.
Last night, Paul Howley may have earned a permanent spot on the Crimson roster. And number 9 may worry Harvard's opponents once again.