Jon Garrity sat slumped in the corner, head down, muttering softly to himself. Tom Murray, back against the concrete wall, lay motionless. His eyes closed, he tried to wash the painful image away.
Frustration. It doesn't seem fair somehow, that fate should have clutched victory away from the trembling hands of the youthful icemen and leave them stunned, empty-handed and incredulous once again. There was no sleep last night for the Crimson hockey team. They lay awake, eyes penetrating the darkness, remembering the shot they fanned on, or the one that went wide. It doesn't seem fair.
But in the cool calculations of midday, it will be fair. Missed opportunities and blown leads aside, the better team won. Harvard hockey has made tremendous strides in the past three months, and even greater ones in the past ten. But they aren't Boston College. Not yet.
"B.C. was down, but they kept coming back, and that's why they're number one in the East," co-captain Graham Carter said after the game. "They played three good periods of hockey, and we played one good period. We always seem to play one or two good periods, but we haven't come up with three in a while. That's what we're striving for: consistency."
The fact is, for one period Harvard is as good as any team in the East. They proved that last month against the Eagles, and if there were any doubters, there are none after last night.
But playing three periods of calm, consistent, productive hockey wins games. The icemen are getting there--they held off a strong B.C. rally in the second period without relinquishing the lead--but they're not there yet. And only one thing will get them there: experience.
"I just feel bad," coach Billy Cleary said in the crowded Garden hallway minutes after the game. "We've played so well so many times. Someday someone's going to look at us and give us a break."
"I don't think the guys will give up," Carter said. "They realize we played a good game, and that for periods at a time we can play great. They're smart enough to realize we can do it."
And they can do it. It takes time, but luckily Cleary has time. Four of his top six scorers are freshmen, the other two are sophomores. His goalie is a sophomore, as is the number one back-up. The years are there, and so is the heart. All they have to do is realize it.
Murray, finally showing signs of life, dropped a coke can on the locker-room floor where it joined orange peels, tape and other coke cans dropped with similar cathartic emotion.
The players began to file into the shower, and someone even yelled for a towel. It didn't seem fair, but then losers' dressing rooms never do. The key now is not to panic, but to get the experience needed to make this a team that can say "we did it" instead of "we played so well."