It's one of the better products of Billy Cleary's experimentation, a match made in training camp, a toss-'em-together-and-see-how-they-play connection comprised of a scrappy all-around sophomore, a speedy junior goal-getter and a gutsy senior playmaker. It's Harvard's most productive line, the Greg Olson-Mike Watson-Tom Murray line, and after three games it has combined to rack up 16 points, including three goals (one each) and four assists during last night's 5-2 victory over Boston University.
The three didn't plan on playing together. Watson and Olson had a linemate in Jim Turner, and Murray, the team captain, thought he'd team with senior Bob McDonald, and perhaps a freshman. But with McDonald sidelined with academic trouble and Cleary in the mood to shuffle things around anyway, the three became a line during a pre-season practice and clicked.
"I see two guys who can really skate, and Michael who can score," Cleary said, "so I decided to try it out. A perfect example of how they work was that first goal--Tommy took the defenseman out of the play, and Michael put it in."
Their lockers are line up in the far corner of the dressing room. Ask why the line works and you get the jokes--"We do everything together, on and off the ice...We love each other."
Then you get the reasons. "It's forechecking, that's why," Murray said. "We back each other up." Olson added, "We communicate on the ice, we know where we all are."
When Harvard showed signs of losing the momentum early in the third period, one Olson-Watson-Murray shift put an end to Terrier delusion as fast as you can say "Mark Fidler." All night, the trio dominated play--and then dominated the post-game scoring box.
And the line is averaging two goals a game, with Tom "They thought I couldn't put the puck in the net" Murray tied for the team lead with three. They backcheck, they scramble, they've got everything except a nickname. Send your submissions in, care of this writer.
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How does a goaltender bounce back after allowing 11 goals? It's not that hard, according to goaltender Wade Lau, who is never lacking in self-confidence.
"(Last week's 11-5 loss to) Northeastern was one of those nights," Lau said after tonight's 29-save performance. "You just forget about it. I would have played each of those shots the same if they happened again, so I didn't worry about it."
Lau's performance tonight was aided by a superb showing from the Crimson defense. The Terriers fired a volley of shots on the Harvard net, but most were harmless perimeter blasts, with no follow up or rebound. Lau's excellent stick-work (strong, wide clears) made sure of that, and then Mark Fusco, Scott Sangster, Neil Sheehy, Alan Litchfield, Ken Code and Bill Sztorc--all of whom played well--got the puck out. No crowd scenes in front of the net, no tip-ins, and a well-played, 5-2 win.