Going into last night's Harvard-Boston University hockey game, you might have said that things just ain't like they used to be around Walter Brown Arena, the Terriers' home of the past ten seasons. And you would have been right.
The national championship banners still swing high above the ice, for example, but down where it counts the Terrier teams just haven't been swinging along, missing out on the playoffs and failing to reach the Beanpot final in each of the last two seasons. Over that time period, Harvard had beaten B.U. three straight (you have to go all the way back to '62-'63 to find the last time that happened), including a 4-3 overtime win in the Arena two years ago.
Also, the crowds just don't rate anymore. Last night's attendance was a listless 2059, a far cry from the Standing-Room-Only gang of shriekers and groaners two years ago, including a fair number of Harvard followers. The Crimson cheering section last night consisted of seats four through seven in Row E, Section 4, plus a few scattered singles. How quickly people forget. After all, Walter Brown was Harvard's home-for-a-year in 1978, while Watson rink was transformed into Bright Center.
The B.U. side, actually both sides and everywhere else, was hardly better. Even the famed B.U. band was down in the gusto department, with only a dozen of its most faithful around to tune up an occasional chorus of the infamous "Go B.U.!" cry.
And so it was up to the B.U. hockey team to try and put things in perspective, to go out and win the game big and say, "Hey, everybody, it seems like old times."
The Terriers came out skating, as did the Crimson, and the two teams battled evenly for most of the first period, playing good, fast, exciting hockey. Harvard had a bunch of chances, the best a Greg Olson breakaway flipshot that Terrier goaltender Cleon Daskalakis smothered between his pads.
Wade Lau, appearing in top from in the Crimson nets, continually stalled the B.U. forwards, until Terrier captain Paul Fenton wheeled in around the right circle and popped a quick wrist shot through Lau's legs for a 1-0 B.U. lead at 18:21. From that point on, up until the last two minutes, Harvard's wide-open skating game turned sloppy enough for the trough. And the Terriers just ate it up, scoring three goals in the second period to put the game out of reach.
"We just didn't skate," Crimson coach Bill Cleary said afterwards. "Our game is skating. We didn't skate and we didn't move the puck."
Not that the Terriers were grace in motion. From the early moments of the second period on, until a late--too late--Harvard rally at the end, the game turned into one for the local Boys' Club during open ice time.
"Many times during the game it got real sloppy at center ice," said Terrier coach Jackie Parker. "Harvard is a little quicker than any team we've played this year and we had a little trouble gauging their speed. In the center ice area, we were turning it over. At times it got very sloppy, but at times it was very controlled."
Those times were few and far between. Except for Terrier Marc Sinclair's shorthanded unassisted score at 14:39 of the second stanza, and a Michael Watson tally off a Greg Olson pass from behind the net less than a minute later, most of the last 40 minutes featured the Harvard defensement chasing Joose pucks in their own zone, and the Terriers failing to turn it on as they did in the days of yore. Not'the traditionally exciting stuff.
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