HOCKEY PREVIEW 2007-08: All in the Family

The Biega brothers are reunited at Harvard—thanks to another pair of siblings

BROTHERS IN ARMS
Meghan T. Purdy

Both Alex Biega and younger brother Michael came to Harvard on the recommendation of Crimson coach Ted Donato’s brother, who coached both players at the Salisbury School in Connecticut. Two more Biega brothers are waiting in the wings.

The story of their arrival at Harvard involves two sets of brothers—a pair of coaches and a pair of players.

Harvard’s Alex and Michael Biega have emerged as standout performers on opposite sides of the ice. Sophomore Alex was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team as a defender, and freshman Michael headlines a strong class of incoming forwards. But it took another pair of brothers to get them to Cambridge.

The matchmaking began a few years ago, when Alex and Michael arrived at the Salisbury School in Connecticut to help build Don Donato’s rising hockey program. Don, incidentally, is the younger brother of Crimson coach Ted Donato ’91.

In Alex’s senior year, the Biegas led Salisbury to its first ever New England championship. Alex, who served as captain and was named team MVP that season, was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth round of the NHL Entry Draft. Instead of going pro, he chose to play college hockey at Harvard to give his game some time to develop.

Michael was a junior on that championship team and was also named team MVP his senior year.

Both have fond memories of the championship season they shared.

“Mike scored the winning goal, we won, 4-3—it was pretty special,” Alex remembers. “Winning certain things, making certain accomplishments together as a team and as brothers is pretty special. Coming to Harvard is pretty special, [too].”

Both arrived at Harvard largely because of the Donato connection.

“When my brother had coached them and been around them in school, they were not only a great recommendation talent-wise, but just as character kids and kids that are winners,” Donato says.

The Biegas are thankful and excited to be playing together again.

“It’s not every day you get to say that you play with your brother and also go to school with your brother,” Michael says. “It’s definitely a good setting to be in right now.”

The pair has been playing together since childhood, standing out on the ponds and in the rinks of their native Quebec. Because of their one-year age difference, every two or three years, the brothers would be placed on teams that played at different age levels. The rest of the time was spent enjoying the game as teammates.

“[It’s] pretty fun when we’re on the ice together,” Alex says. “You know where he’s going to be all the time, you know where he likes the puck.”

But, despite these advantages, it’s not all fun and games when the Biegas are on the ice together. Their family practices intensified after Michael, formerly a defenseman like his brother, was converted to forward when one of his coaches decided to try him out there—and the experiment succeeded. Now Alex and Michael, who have two younger brothers—a forward and a defenseman—often challenge themselves by going head to head.

“We kept pushing each other every year, every summer, trying to get better,” Michael says.

The brothers hope their unique chemistry can help revitalize a Crimson team that went 14-17-2 last year. Alex was a key contributor on that team and shared the George Percy Award as one of Harvard’s top rookies. Michael has also already begun establishing himself, scoring a goal in the Crimson’s preseason exibition contest.

Despite the fact that they now play different positions, their similarities have not gone unnoticed on the bench.

“The one thing that’s definitely a common denominator is their passion for the game, their work ethic, and their ability to really work at their weaknesses to get better,” Donato says.

If this dedication and discipline can translate into success, they may someday become the Biega brothers of the NHL. For now, though, they simply hope to get Harvard another wining season.

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