Down at Walter Brown's Ice Palace Crimson varsity hockey adherents are more than hopeful. They are confident. Even Coach Cooney Weiland predicts a "considerable improvement over last year" for his varsity pucksters. When a veteran like Weiland goes out on a limb, things must look rosy.
And as far as a pre-season forecast can be trusted, Harvard hockey fortunes in 1952-53 will definitely take a big rise. Weiland, hopeful before last season when the team turned in a mediocre performance, has far greater expectations for this year's aggregation. He is backed up by rival coaches, too.
Snooks Kelley, B.C. mentor, claims, "Harvard really has it this season," and B.U. coach Harry Cleverly says, "Harvard will be the top team around here this year." With such support from those who should know, Crimson hockey fans are justifiably happy.
The principal reason for such high hopes is the fact that a raft of fine sophomores (last year's Yardlings had a 15-1-1 record) has given the varsity much-needed depth to go with its veteran performers. At that the team lost only five regulars by graduation last spring, so it has a lot of experienced talent as well.
Though two of these losses were Bill Bliss and captain Dusty Burke, the '51-'52 first-string defense, Weiland says this year's defense will be "much stronger." He is especially high on sophomore Ed Mrkonich, who figures to be the roughest and best defenseman at Harvard for many years. Teamed with Mrkonich on the first defense is junior Jeff Coolidge, whom Weiland calls "a much improved player."
The second defense pairs Tony Patton from last season's second defense with Ned Almy, another promising sophomore, while seniors Jim O'Brien and Dan Simonds give extra experienced insurance. Jim Moynihan could see a lot of action too if he gets off probation.
For the second year in a row Weiland is perplexed about his goalie situation. Two veterans who shared the job last season are fighting it out again for the top position. Nate Corning and Brad Richardson are even now, Weiland says, but Richardson is graduating in February. Sophomore Carl Hathaway "shows promise," according to Weiland, and gives him depth to work with.
With such a strong defensive set-up, Weiland is now worrying mainly about his attack. Dick Clasby's football injury leaves him without a high-scoring (15 points last year) first-line wing, but Clasby should be ready by the first of the year. "He should help a lot when he gets back," Weiland predicts.
Most serious factor on the debit side to date has been the injury to second-line center Norm Wood. Wood severed an external lateral ligament in his left leg in Friday's practice, and will be out of action for two or three weeks. Weiland is especially concerned about Wood's loss because the scrappy junior was looking very good prior to his injury. "He's smartened up a lot, and was just beginning to work in with Jeb Bray and sophomore Neddy Bliss on the second line," Weiland says.
Taking Wood's place until he returns is Doug Manchester, high-scorer for last year's freshmen. "Manchester has good ability," Weiland states, "but is playing in a tougher league than before. He needs to work harder and get experience, and then he will handle himself all right."
First Line Set
The only line Weiland doesn't need to worry about is his veteran first-string. Amory Hubbard (28 points last season), captain and center Walt Greeley (26 points) and George Chase make up this first aggregation. They are better than ever, Weiland reports, and Chase is greatly improved. Ace playmaker Greeley, along with Wood and Bray, is the hardest worker on the squad he says. "They're really barging in and digging out the puck this season."
The third line is still undecided. Veteran Jim Colt is out with a pulled muscle, but Weiland has sophomores Frank Mahoney, Scott Cooledge, and Jack Kelley, along with senior Dave Harvey to choose from, so when Wood, Clasby, and Colt return, he should have no trouble turning up with a strong trio.
Pre-season propaganda looks fine on paper, but proof of the pudding is in the eating. Weiland presents his charges in their debut on Saturday against perennially tough B.U. If they pass that test, Crimson enthusiasts can really start whooping it up.