You hear the same things on this side of the Charles every year at this time. About how Boston University's hockey team is "cocky" or "overrated." About how Harvard's hockey team is "due." About how the Crimson beat this team or B.U. almost lost to that team. About Jack Hughes' slapshot. About Jack O'Callahan's board scores.
And with the exception of one wild, wonderful, night in February two years ago, Harvard hopes seem forever turned into Terrier truths.
They're not saying those same things on this side of the Charles this winter. They can't.
Very few have seen Harvard play hockey. This is the Nomad Year. The Crimson plays all its games outside of Cambridge this season, eight of them at "home" in Walter Brown Arena. B.U.'s Walter Brown Arena. Sigh.....
And so the local fans will get their first look at this year's batch of Harvard icemen tomorrow night when they "host" Boston University. It will be, like most of the B.U. Harvard tilts, a very emotional, exciting clash. It remains to be seen whether it will turn out like most of the trans-river wars, with the Terriers on top.
For Boston University, the story is the same, the wording slightly different. 4-0 with a couple of shaky wins... Reigning national champions... O'Callahan back on the point for another year... Mark Fidler leading the team in scoring... A couple of good looking freshmen on the big club... Three key players to return after Christmas....coach Jackie Parker smoking 11 packs a day....
Filling in the elipses, B.U.'s last couple of outings have been near losses. In Providence by senior netminder Jim Craig to give the Terriers a 3-2 win against the Friars. Three days ago at Walter Brown B.U. had to come up with a threegoal third period to defeat Dartmouth, 6-4.
Personnel-wise, the Terriers are without the services of their best line until the New Year. Center John Bethel is out with a knee injury, and wings Dave Silk and Bob Boileau are serving detention for disciplinary problems dating back to last spring.
That leaves sophomore scoring machine Fidler, Beanpot hat-tricker Micky Mullen, hustling Marc Hetnik, and highly-touted freshman Rob Davies. That's more than enough for now.
Craig's experienced play in goal makes up for the squad's defensive deficiencies. Bill LeBlond is a blue-chip backliner, while O'Callahan would rather score. Regardless, no team has tallied more than four against them.
Harvard's tale is a different one this year than in the past. The Crimson are currently 1-2, and uncharacteristically bad start which is due to the uncharacteristically high number of freshmen on the squad. It has taken the seven yardlings a couple of games (7-2 loss at Dartmouth, 6-5 overtime 1 gs at RPI) to get their ECAC acts together.
But things came together in Providence last Wednesday night. Harvard defeated the Friars 5-2 in its most decisive win in over a year. Though only one freshman scored, forward David Burke, the hustle and confidence were then in all the rookies, as Harvard outskated its opponent in the finest Billy Cleary tradition.
However, it was freshman goaltender Wade Lau who outdid veterans and newcomers alike. Lau had 29 saves, and showed the promise of handling the net chores with poise and experience for the next few years. He refused to commit himself against breaking shooters all evening, and thoroughly frustrated clever forwards such as P.C.'s Colin Ahern, who Lau personally foiled five or six times from point-blank range.
The Brothers Hughes, Gene Purdy, John Cochrane, Jimmy Trainor--they're all back, and they all know what it means to play against B.U. It means some penalties, some close final scores, and, occasionally, a Harvard win.
And as pre-game brickbats are tossed back and forth across the Charles, Harvard and Boston University will try once again to temporarily settle things in this most classic of rivalries.
Note: Coupon #1 from the ticket book will be accepted at the door as regular admission to Sunday night's game.