When a trio of rookie forwards generated the game-winning goal over Boston University last year, Mark Mazzoleni, then coach of the Harvard men’s hockey team, knew exactly what he had just seen.
“Sometimes, when you’re a freshman, you play so hard because you don’t want to get taken out of the lineup,” Mazzoleni explained last November, after his line of newcomers Steve Mandes, Kevin Du and Ryan Maki helped down the Terriers. “You wish you could see that out of your whole team, sometimes.”
Well, they’re not freshmen anymore, but Mandes, Du and Maki still form a line that skates as if it had something to prove. And classmate Dylan Reese, a defenseman who rounds out the quartet of sophomores returning from last season—well, he’s not half-bad, either.
Last year, it was Du’s goal, with a Mandes assist, that felled BU. Friday, it was a Maki goal, with dishes ultimately credited to Mandes and Du, that felled Union. And then, less than nine minutes later, it was a Reese tally, with assists from Mandes and Maki, that iced the contest, giving the Crimson a 3-0 advantage it would never relinquish.
Four sophomores, six points and one win over a Dutchmen squad previously undefeated in conference play.
“I think that line was excellent all night long for us,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 of the three forwards. “It was nice to see them get rewarded with a couple goals tonight, because they were doing all the little things out there.”
Of course, that’s not to forget Reese, who actually leads the sophomore bunch in points and goals. Entering his highly touted freshman campaign as a New York Rangers draft pick, the blueliner would lose 15 games to a nerve injury but still, when healthy, display a smart and physical defensive game.
This year, though, Reese is making his presence known on both ends of the ice, and it’s no real surprise to his teammates.
“I think you can expect Reese to have a very big year,” Mandes predicted before the start of the current season. “He is excellent defensively, but he’s also outstanding offensively, and I don’t think everyone got to see that because he was hurt so much.”
“Everyone’s going to be pleasantly surprised if Reese can stay healthy,” he added.
Indeed, Reese earned an assist on the first Harvard goal of the season, a Tom Cavanagh tally. Two games later, the sophomore notched the Crimson’s lone goal against Colgate, just the team’s third strike of the year. Since then, he’s boosted his overall scoring total to six, courtesy of three goals and three assists.
On Friday, Reese’s low score past Union goaltender Kris Mayotte sealed the game for Harvard.
His three forward comrades, on the other hand, were somewhat slower to find the back of the net. Entering Friday, neither Maki nor Mandes had garnered a single point, and Du had just two.
But it was Maki, after missing four games with an injury to the cartilage in his ribs last month, who would score the decisive goal against the Dutchman, a shot from the right point 7:57 into the second period.
The trio, whom Mazzoleni dubbed the “high-energy line” last year, was reunited last weekend in North Country with Maki’s return.
“It took us a few games to get the ball rolling,” Maki admitted. “Last weekend, we struggled offensively. We were definitely doing the right things defensively, but we needed just a little fire to get that going.”
Five points against the Dutchmen ought to do it, though.
“We were working on it all game, and we kind of broke it open,” Maki said, “so that was good.”
The line mixes Mandes’ speed and Maki’s strength with Du’s smarts and sturdiness at center, and it is one Maki had said he hoped “would stick together” last year.
“I know they enjoy playing with each other, because they’re all sophomores and close friends,” Donato said, “so it’s nice to see them score a couple big goals for us.”
With a little help from Reese, of course.
Against Rensselaer the next night, the bunch would amass four more points—two assists for Du, and one apiece for Maki and Reese.
It’s a small returning sophomore class—just three forwards and a blueliner—but with a line that showed traces of its old self this weekend and a defenseman with a proclivity for the net, the quartet’s presence could be quite sizeable this season.
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at email@example.com.