Coaches and teammates have only words of praise to offer regarding the junior centerman with a penchant for the goal, but until this year, Dom Moore ’03 and Brett Nowak ’03 overshadowed the younger scorer.
“On any other team, he would’ve had a point total that was higher than what it is,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni says. “Now he’s older, more experienced and he’s going to be given opportunities to play more key situations for us.”
“We graduated two centermen this past year, and they took a lot of ice last year,” Cavanagh says. “Other guys are going to have to step up more and I think I’m one of the guys who will have to do that. I might get a little more ice.”
Playing second fiddle to hockey’s top-liners is not an unfamiliar story to the Crimson faithful—just look back to the route Oliver Jonas ’01 took to starting goaltender.
Before Jonas registered one of the best single seasons in school history, he spent three years on the bench behind J.R. Prestifilippo ’00, who holds second place on Harvard’s all-time saves list.
However, even as a freshman, Cavanagh found ways to be a key component of Harvard’s offense. He was the team’s top scoring rookie, fifth on the team overall and ranked second among ECAC freshmen.
Cavanagh also needed no time to adjust to pressure situations, as he was Harvard’s leading scorer in the ECAC playoffs. The centerman netted the game-winner against Clarkson in the conference semifinals, and later scored the game-tying goal in the third period against Maine in NCAAs.
“He rises in the important moments,” says Tim Burke, director of amateur scouting for the San Jose Sharks. “He’s a very clutch player—always seems to make big plays when it counts.”
Cavanagh’s success only continued last season, and he tacked scoring consistency onto clutch play, racking up scoring streaks of 10 and nine games.
And this is supposed to be his breakout year?
“I think he’s starting to finally come into his own about knowing he can score and feeling comfortable about shooting the puck from anywhere,” senior forward Tim Pettit says. “He’s always been kind of in the shadows and I think this is going to be a breakout year for him. He’s going to really be the catalyst for every special situation we have this year.”
“A lot of people might look at the statistics and not know that Cavanagh is this good of a player, but you have to keep in mind that he has yet to play on our top power play unit,” Mazzoleni says. “Now he’s going to be playing those really key minutes for us. And he’s our best defensive centerman.”
As a center responsible for both sides of the game, Cavanagh has certainly proven himself capable on offense and distinguishes himself defensively.
“Tom has an uncanny sense of positioning in both the defensive and offensive zones,” junior goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris says. “And he’s able to successfully shut down players before they get into scoring position.”