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Harvard's new look hockey team played with surprising coordination and hustle Saturday night, and junior goaltender Bruce Durno performed beautifully in the Crimson net as Harvard opened its season with an encouraging 5-2 victory over the St. Nicholas Hockey Club at Watson Rink.
Coach Cooney Weiland had broken up last winter's spectacular sophomore line of All-American Joe Cavanagh. Steve Owen and Dan DeMichele early in preseason drills, and last weekend. each performer was skating with a different unit.
Senior George McManama, who was to center a first line of Owen and senior Ron Mark, had sprained an ankle in practice earlier in the week, and Harvard went with sophomore Tom Paul, a hustling forward whose potential was unproven after an injury sidelined him for most of last season. But Paul was quick to prove it.
The line skated together beautifully, comparing favorably with last winter's sophomore unit and their success leaves Weiland with a pleasant dilemma. McManama should return to practice this week, and clearly, he has earned his spot on the first line after a clutch junior season there last winter. But Paul is far too talented to be kept from a regular turn, and Weiland will most likely find him a spot on one of his top three lines.
The Mark-Owen-Paul combination scored both of Harvard's first two goals in the opening period, and brought Harvard back from a 1-0 deficit. St. Nick's Jack Garrity, the Harvard captain two years ago, had jammed the puck under Durno from two feet out, after little more than ten minutes of playing time to put the New York club ahead.
But three minutes later, with St, Nick's Morris Cheston in the penalty box for tripping. Owen flipped a short pass to Mark five feet in front of the St. Nick net, and Mark put the puck by goalie Bobby Groh to tie the score.
At 17:33 of the same period Paul slipped a wrist shot by Groh after he had made a leg save of one shot, and Harvard was ahead to stay.
But although Harvard was passing beautifully and springing wings loose on the outside lanes, it was having trouble finishing off plays, and despite its success in controlling play, was able to put only seven other shots on Groh. St. Nick's was much improved over its horrible showing at Cambridge last year, and it came to Watson Rink unbeaten in three contests. It did not take long for Harvard to realize that it was in for a hockey game.
But wing Tom Huntzinger went off for tripping with a minute remaining in the first period, and with 23 seconds gone in the second Crimson defense man Chris Gurry took Joe Cavanagh's pass at the left face-off circle in the St. Nick end and beat Groh on the goalie's right side.
Eight minutes later, DeMichele took a feed from sophomore Bob Havern near the St. Nick's blue line and went in all alone, faking Groh to the right corner of the net, and flipping the puck into the left with a backhander.
By now, St. Nick's was obviously tiring. The New York squad had brought only 15 men to Cambridge, and it was having trouble mounting an effective attack against the three sets of fresh, talented defensive units that Weiland was able to use. Durno was almost unbeatable, making 26 saves, and good back checking did the rest.
St. Nick's wing Bill Lamarche, a former Harvard star, beat Durno cleanly with a shot inches above the ice late in the second period, but Harvard was still in control. With less than two minutes gone in the final period, Mark scored again, assisted by Paul and Terry Flaman, and Harvard was out of reach, 5-2.
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