As the Crimson men’s hockey team ended its four-game losing skid to the Boston University Terriers with a 5-2 win last night, the story was as much about the young players who won the game as the end of the streak itself.
Scoring the game-clinching third goal was freshman forward Kevin Du, who spent much of the night centering a line composed of fellow freshmen Steve Mandes and Ryan Maki.
The three are by no means strangers—Du has been linemates with Maki three times this year, and he has skated on Mandes’s line once as well—but this was the first time this season that Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni had paired his three young forwards together.
The trio’s history extends beyond Harvard, however, as Maki and Mandes were teammates on the U.S. National Team that took gold at the Four Nations Cup and fourth place at the World Championships.
“There’s obviously great chemistry here,” Maki said of his previous playing experience with Mandes. “We seem to feed off each other real well.”
Highlighted by Du’s goal, the freshmen stole the show, breaking a tense 2-2 tie 9:47 into the second period.
The puck was passed from the along the boards by sophomore defenseman Tom Walsh, and it emerged in the middle of a number of battling bodies in front of BU goalie Sean Fields.
The puck bounced off of Du near the Terrier’s goal, and Mandes attempted to knock it past Fields. Caught in the traffic in front, the puck lay in the crease for several moments before anybody realized where it was, and Du was the first to get his stick on it. He directed it in for the score and a 3-2 Harvard lead.
“Everyone was going nuts, it was great,” Mandes said.
The excitement, caused both by the goal and the line itself, was obvious after the game.
“[The freshmen] play well off each other,” Mazzoleni said. “Like any freshmen, they play with a lot of energy.”
That energy was, perhaps, a necessary antidote for the nerves the freshmen must have faced stepping into the spotlight of the BU-Harvard rivalry.
“Coming into the game, we knew that BU was a great team,” Du said. “I think this will jump-start our season. We played a complete game, and that really helped us win.
“Every time we stepped on the ice, we got the momentum for our team,” he continued.
Because that momentum translated so easily into a win, the freshmen are hopeful that their line will remain intact.
“It’s a great line,” Maki said. “Hopefully, we can stick together.”
Of course, that decision belongs to the coach, but Mazzoleni seemed just as impressed as the onlookers.
“Sometimes when you’re a freshman, you play so hard because you don’t want to get taken out of the lineup,” Mazzoleni said. “You wish you could see that out of your whole team sometimes.”