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Before sophomore Bruce Durno started his second varsity game in the nets, the Harvard record for most saves in a game was 43. Bruce deflected 44 B.U. shots that night and proved what everyone had been thinking--he was the most promising goalie to hit Eastern hockey since Cornell's Ken Dryden.
Tonight Durno and Dryden will meet each other in what Coach Gene Kinasewich, former Harvard hockey All-American, calls a "game of goal-tenders." He believes "the two teams' offenses will even each other out, and it just boils down to which goalie can stop the most shots."
While Dryden, with a 6-3 frame, can almost completely cover the net, Bruce at 5-7 must rely on mobility and reflexes. "Even if Dryden goes down he can protect a lot of area," Bruce said, "but if I go down, Cornell will have a field day."
If anyone has the quickness and reflexes to stay on his feet, however, Durno does. Kinasewich rates Durno's agility as "at least equal to any college goalie I have ever seen."
"But that's only half his value to the team," he added. "He is the swing factor in most games. Often we have been down a goal, Bruce stops a breakaway to bolster the team's confidence, and we explode for three goals."
One of Durno's talents which could play a big part in tonight's game is the way he directs the action around the nets. When the defensemen are skating with their backs to other players toward a puck cleared into the Harvard zone, Bruce will tell them where to pass the puck saving valuable time. "To beat Cornell, we will have to clear the puck fast and that means I'll have to tell the defensemen that wings are open for a pass," Bruce said.
The irony of tonight's game will be that Durno came within a whisker of sitting on the Cornell side of the rink. Coming from Niagara Falls, Canada, where Cornell has a big "in", Bruce naturally applied to Cornell. "I never even considered Harvard," he said, "because I never thought I would have a chance."
But Coach Kinasewich happened to be attending the NCAA Tourney in Ithaca two years ago and heard of Bruce. Learning from a friend that Durno was not quite satisfied with Cornell, he suggested that Durno send for an application. Bruce did and found the streets of Cambridge more appealing than the rustic pleasures of Cornell's fraternities and agricultural school.
Durno's hockey career in the nets started when he was eight. After six years in the Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget leagues, Bruce joined the Stanford Junior B Bruins, a farm team owned by the Boston Bruins. He went on to play for a Junior A team also in the Bruins farm system. In Junior A hockey Bruce was starting goalie against the likes of Derek Sanderson, Tom Webster, and Bobby Orr--all of whom are now playing for the Bruins.
Durno remembers one game in particular against Bobby Orr. "I had been doing pretty well against him all game, surprising myself with some good saves. But with one minute left he scored a goal on me winning the game," 4-3.
Knowing of Bruce's college plans, the Bruins did not pressure him to turn pro. They promised instead to wait four years for Bruce's tryout.
Coming to Harvard represented a big hockey adjustment for Bruce. The best Junior A teams could handily beat the best Eastern college teams. Used to Bobby Orr, it was hard for Durno to readjust to the much slower American hockey. As a result he was over-reacting to many shots in his freshman season. Coach Kinasewich, who also came from Canada, played a major part in helping Bruce make this readjustment.
There is no doubt that Bruce has found his groove this year. Although at first shaky with his defensemen, Chris Gurry and Terry Flaman, the three have settled down to form one of the best hockey defenses in the East. "Bruce has developed into one of the finest goalies I have ever seen," Kinasewich said. "He has that innate ability that every great goalie has which can't be taught. If we ever had a goal-tender who could beat Dryden, it's Durno."
Harvard's Ivy title hopes ride on just that.
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