As the Harvard men's hockey team prepares to embark on its centennial campaign, it hopes experience will make the difference between this year and last.
The youngest team in the league last season fought inexperience throughout its campaign (11-18-3, 9-11-2 ECAC). However, this forced its young players to mature into a disciplined, battle tested group.
"Many guys last year gained a lot of experience," said team captain defensemen Jeremiah McCarthy. "It should pay-off now."
Certainly, Harvard has the talent to excel. The only question is if it will exhibit enough consistency to improve upon last year's rocky season.
To turn things around, the Crimson must increase its toughness and be willing to pay the price to dig pucks out of the corners and crash the net each and every shift. Too often last year Harvard failed to maintain its intensity for a full sixty minutes.
All these faults can be partially explained by age.
"Youth leads to mistakes," said coach Ronn Tomassoni. "I think we've learned a great lesson from last year."
Last season's squad--featuring only two seniors and sixteen underclassmen--led Tomassoni to give those youngsters significant ice time. The hope is that the struggles this brought last year's team will payoff this season.
However, while this team is more experienced than the last, it is still very young. A team comprised of predominantly sophomores and juniors does not exactly qualify as a veteran squad. This team still has only four seniors and has also added seven freshmen, many of whom will see significant minutes.
In addition, the Crimson will be hurt by the departure of junior forward Craig MacDonald (six goals, 10 assists) who is taking the year off to play with the Canadian national team.
"Craig is a very talented young man," Tommasoni said. "While his loss hurts, he has a great opportunity to play for his country and he'll come back an even better player next year."
The Crimson still have some lessons to learn. Here's how the team breaks down.
This is clearly the weakest part of the team. Last year, Harvard barely averaged three goals per game. When the team's leading scorer, junior Rob Millar, has only 13 goals on the season, there's a bit of a production problem.
Where the offense will come from this year is still a bit of a mystery.