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Tonight at 8, the Harvard hockey team meets the University of Lowell at Bright Center. And you didn't even know the ice was in.
Although Lowell, a Division II hockey power, has already played several games this season, tonight's matchup is an exhibition game for both teams and will not count toward overall season records. For Harvard coach Bill Cleary, it is a chance to get a look at his players in a competitive situation, and to help finalize the forward lines and defensive pairings for the Crimson's regular season opener on November 24 at Dartmouth.
"We'll be trying to learn a lot of things out there," Cleary said yesterday. "We want to win the game, of course, but we also want to find out who the heck the Harvard players are. You need competition to do that. These guys have been playing against each other every day, and you can only do that for so long."
One of Cleary's major undertakings this season will be to generate a balanced scoring attack, something last year's team lacked. Aside from the "Instant Karma" line of Greg Olson, Mike Watson, and Tommy Murray--which combined for 97 points last season--the Crimson forwards weren't exactly burning out the red light bulbs last year.
Murray has graduated, but Olson and team captain Watson return with a new linemate--junior Greg Britz, who was out most of last season with a knee injury. "Britz has played very well," Cleary says, "the best he's played since he's been here. He's playing intelligently and he's scoring goals. I'm delighted."
Because expected returnees David Burke and Dave Connors were lost for the year with academic difficulties, the remaining Harvard lines have been juggled.
Sophomore Phil Falcone is centering for junior Jim Turner and sophomore Shayne Kukulowicz, and freshman Scotty Fusco is complemented by classmate Greg Chalmers and sophomore Gary Martin on the wings. Cleary has been especially impressed by the Fusco line.
"They've played very well so far. Everyone that sees them will be pleased with Fusco and Chalmers. Fusco put the puck in the net and Chalmers is a good skater with real good hockey sense. That line is moving the puck real well."
On defense, the Crimson is in much better shape than last season, with the two pairings returning. Junior Mark Fusco, brother of Scotty, and sophomore Ken Code are the top anchors on the blue line, and senior Alan Litchfield and junior Neil Sheehy compose the second duo. Says Cleary: "We're going in with a little more solid defense this year. We don't have to play freshmen, and on defense, you really have to rely on experience."
Wade Lau, who was outstanding for much of last year before injuring a knee, returns as the number one goaltender, and senior Steve Better and sophomore Mark Whisten battle for the right to back-up Lau. Each goalie will play a period tonight.
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