Zacko vs. Presto: The Choice Looms
Anyone who knows anything about hockey can tell you that you don't win many games without a good goaltender.
That being the case, the position of goaltender will no doubt be an integral part of the Harvard men's hockey team's formula for success in the upcoming season.
It's come down to two likely candidates--returning sophomore Peter Zakowich and freshman J.R. Prestifilippo.
So who's the go-to guy this year for the Crimson?
"I don't know quite frankly who's starting," Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni said.
The position of goaltender remains a big question mark for Harvard as it prepares to open the season against Brown tonight.
The graduation of veteran goalie Tripp Tracy is largely responsible for the open parentheses in net. Tracy logged almost all the ice time for Harvard at that position over the last two years, departing the Crimson without leaving behind an experienced successor to his regime.
But uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing in sports.
"I think the general public looks at question marks and speculates that they are a weakness and I don't necessarily look at it that way," Tomassoni said. "It can be a strength too."
Both Zakowich and Prestifilippo are talented goalkeepers, a fact that should make the season interesting, especially in the early going.
As Tracy's backup last year, Zakowich played in six games, finishing the year with a respectable 3-2 record and a 3.87 GAA.
The rookie Prestifilippo was more than accomplished at the Hotchkiss School and was drafted in the seventh in the seventh round in the June NHL draft by the New York Islanders.
So it looks like Tomassoni has a healthy goalie controversy on his hands.
"My philosophy has always been that if there's one guy that is the best, he will play." Tomassoni said. "If we have two very good guys, they'll both play.
But with practices starting less than three weeks ago, neither Zakowich nor Prestifilippo has had the time to emerge as the better goaltender.
In a combined effort last Saturday, the pair tossed a shutout against the Polish National Team, splitting the ice time equally and having to register only a combined 15 saves.
It seems, then, that the goaltending duties will be shared for at least a little while longer.
"Coach is not afraid to switch things around," goalie coach Chuckie Hughes '92 said. "There's a good chance we'll see some rotating early in the season."
And Harvard knows all about rotations when it comes to goaltenders. The last two times the Crimson went with a two-man rotation in net it went to the NCAAs, winning it all in 1989.
In 1993,the rookie Tracy, in tandem with Aaron Israel, led the Crimson to a NCAA berth.
Hughes, part of a two-man freshman rotation with Allain Roy '92 in 1989, was in net when Harvard beat Minnesota 4-3 for the NCAA title.
How fitting that one of the goalies who helped bring the title to Harvard seven years ago is now on board again this year as a volunteer goalie coach.
Maybe Hughes can bring back some of the magic which helped him notch 33 saves en route to Harvard's last NCAA championship.
Regardless of whether or not a dominant goalie rises to the fore-front, Tomassoni has created an atmosphere of healthy competition which should elevate the level of play in net.
"It's definitely nice to have good competition," Zakowich said. "It pushes you."
But the competition has not had any ill effects in the locker room.
"Zakowich is more experienced, but I think we're going through the same thing," Prestifilippo said. "It's a good dynamic because we're both young and trying to improve ourselves."
Zakowich may have the edge in experience, having learned under two great Harvard goaltenders, but Prestifilippo can certainly hold his own.
We'll just have to wait and see how the season develops.
"I couldn't tell you how it's gonna sort out," Tomassoni said. "We've gotta get into the fire."
And with the magic of Hughes floating around, the Crimson could get real hot this season.