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The Harvard hockey team will play B.U. tonight just as a college senior from Lewis Hershey's home district would fill out his law school application. Looming ahead of it with the inevitability of death, taxes, and the draft is Cornell.
The draw (which moves the winner of tonight's Watson Rink game into the semi-finals at the Boston Garden against the Cornell-Princeton victor) cripples Harvard's chances of reaching the finals of the ECAC Tournament and thus receiving an invitation to the NCAA championship in Minnesota. But for the Crimson there still remains a strong dose of pride and the ever-present glimmer of hope.
The East's top eight teams were seeded strictly according to their won-lost percentages. Harvard and B.U. both finished at .667, but a coin flip gave the fourth-place position and the accompanying home-ice advantage to the Crimson.
That's the only break Harvard got. B.U., dragged down to fifth by a rash of mid-winter upsets, is, by any subjective analysis, the second best team in the East.
The late-season discovery of sophomore Mark Fennie has given B.U. a star in the nets and the return to action of senior forwards Billy Riley and John Cooke has remedied the Terriers' lack of depth.
In Herb Wakabavashi, Serge Boily, Mickey Gray, and Eddie Wright, B.U. boasts the most dangerous group of juniors outside of Ithaca, and the Terriers' sophomore line includes two of the East's top five scorers, Mike Hyndman and Larry Davenport.
The Terriers' defensemen are not in a class with their forwards, but they held off Harvard in the Beanpot final that B.U. won, 4-1.
The Crimson upset B.U. 8-5 when the teams last met at Watson, and should Coach Cooney Weiland's skaters enjoy similar success tonight they will move into the round of four at the Garden. But Cornell, which has had some close contests with both B.U. and Princeton, has handled Harvard twice with consummate ease and is odds-on to retain the Eastern championship it won last year.
The other half of the draw should be more interesting, pitting four almost equal teams against each other for the second NCAA bid. Clarkson, number two by record, has the best chance of making the finals, although an exceptional goal-tending performance (a possibility for evetry team but Clarkson) would be enough to tip the scales in another direction.
ECAC Hockey Tournament Pairings
8. Princeton (13-9-1) at 1. Cornell (19-1)
7. Brown (11-6-2) at 2. Clarkson (11-5)
6. Boston College (14-7-1) at 3. St. Lawrence (11-5-1)
5. Boston University (13-6-2) at 4. Harvard (11-7)
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