Get all the members of the Harvard hockey team lost in the woods of Western Massachusetts without a bus or map and they would still be back in Cambridge by tomorrow night.
Harvard is that anxious to begin the 1988-89 season. Who wouldn't be? With the return of Olympians Lane MacDonald and Allen Bourbeau, along with 18 other lettermen, opposing ECAC coaches have tabbed the Crimson as the pre-season favorite to capture the league crown. The current national polls have Harvard ranked fourth.
Just start the season, Harvard says.
"I think we are all eagerly awaiting for the season to begin," Harvard Coach Bill Cleary said. "Everyone's saying, `Let's get on with it.'"
Tomorrow night at Bright Center, the Crimson (last year: 21-11 overall, 18-4 ECAC) will try to channel its pre-season excitement into regular-season results when it hosts Yale at 7:30 p.m. (WHRB, 95.3 FM). Harvard's opening ECAC weekend series concludes Saturday night against Brown.
Yale and Brown, two of the four ECAC squads that failed to make last year's playoffs, are hoping that this season will be different.
But how excited are the Elis and the Bruins, knowing that they must face the Crimson at Bright?
"It's a tough assignment," Yale Coach Tim Taylor said. "We are a young team, had a tough season last year and now we're walking into the lion's den."
"It's definitely a big challenge to play Harvard," first-year Brown Coach Bob Gaudet said. "They're supposedly the best team in the league, and it's nice to play a real good team this early on in the season."
If the Elis--who lost to Harvard, 8-1, January 17 at Bright--have any thoughts of an upset tomorrow night, they will need support from their scoring lines.
Considering that no Yale player tallied more than 30 points or more than 15 goals last season (defenseman Dave Besseggio led all Yale players with 26 points), Taylor is wishing for a low-scoring, defensive battle.
Yale has the goaltender--1987 All-ECAC selection Mike O'Neill. Despite showing signs of inconsistency last year (4.09 league goals-against average), O'Neill is still one of the ECAC's top goalies.
Harvard enters the weekend with a trio of goalies on its roster--sophomore Mike Francis (.887 save pct., 2.59 g.a.a.), freshmen Chuckie Hughes and Allain Roy. Cleary has yet to determine the starter and said that he might rotate the goalies throughout the season.
The Crimson should have no problems at the forward position. As a result of the long-awaited return of MacDonald (1986-87: 37 goals, 30 assists, 67 points), this year's captain, and Bourbeau (1986-87: 23-34--57), Harvard boasts one of the finest collection of forwards in the nation.
Peter Ciavaglia (10-23--33), the 1988 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Harvard's leading scorer, heads a group of returning players that also includes junior C.J. Young (13-16--29) and sophomore Ted Donato (12-14--26).
That offensive firepower will make the Crimson a tough team to beat this year. That's what the ECAC says. That's what the nation says.
What about Coach Cleary?
"This team has the potential to be a good hockey team," Cleary said. "How good? Who knows? Only time will tell."