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Snively Arena, most Eastern college teams can attest, is a most unsettling place to play hockey. Raucous and extremely partisan New Hampshire supporters make the rink a psychological hell for visiting squards, and consequently, the Wildcats rarely lose there.
Tonight, a talented Harvard sextet that has never lost to New Hampshire, and is undefeated in two games this season, confronts a U.N.H. team that has been waiting since the ECAC quarterfinals last March. And perhaps, as was the case the last time the two squads met, the Crimson will be able to escape with a victory.
Harvard ripped the Wildcats. 7-1, when they met last February, but U.N.H. had been exhausted from a gruelling overtime loss to Boston College on the previous night. The game had been even for two periods, but the Crimson defeated the rapidly collapsing Blue with six goals in the last-twenty minutes. The next meeting was quite dissimilar.
With nearly 800 fans on the Blue side of Watson Rink, the Wildcats ran out to a 3-1 lead early in the second period, and only a late Harvard rally, and a Bobby Bauer goal in overtime, kept the Crimson in the ECAC tournament.
The Wildcats have lost ten lettermen from last year's squad, and the team that will face Harvard tonight can hardly compare with it in terms of talent or experience.
Goaltender Rick Metzer, one of the most underrated performers in the East, is gone, and the graduation of forwards Bob Brandt, Mike Ontkean, Rick David, and Dave Sheen, has cost U.N.H. a good deal of its considerable scoring punch. The loss of defensemen Graham Bruder and Mickey Goulet has left coach Charlie Holt with a rebuilding program that might not bring the Wildcats near their 22-5-1 record of last winter.
But four sophomores have filled in at critical positions, and Lou Frigon, the Wildcats' leading scorer last year, is still around. An early season victory over Merrimack (12-2) and a tie with tough Colgate (4-4) indicates that the Blue is not totally punchless.
Clearly, the advantage of Snively Rink will have to do more for U.N.H. than it usually does, because the Harvard team that visits Durham tonight is much better balanced than last winter's squad.
The Crimson's methodical whipping of Dartmouth last Saturday suggests that lackluster offensive performances, like the one Harvard turned in against Northeastern, will be rare. Even spread of scoring between the first two lines indicates that for the first time in several seasons. Harvard's strength in forwards will be fairly uniform regardless of which line is skating at the time.
But unlike either of the past two games, Harvard can ill afford to let up either emotionally or physically tonight. New Hampshire still has enough talent remaining to pose a serious threat during any Harvard lapses, and the raucous denizens of Snively Arena will not let the Wildcats forget it.
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