This year the Harvard hockey team marched into its first weekend brimming with confidence. The year before, the Crimson had pulled out the national championship, and its opponents--Yale and Brown--had brought up the bottom of the ECAC.
But Harvard wobbled out of the weekend reeling, dropping a 6-2 decision to the Elis in the dreaded Yale Whale November 10 and limping to a 3-3 draw against the Bruins in Providence, R.I., the next night.
A lot has happened in the unpredictable ECAC since last November. Harvard (6-7-1 overall, 6-5-1 ECAC) dropped into the bottom half of the league, then rebounded into a fourway tie for second place with victories over Clarkson and St. Lawrence at Bright Center last weekend. Yale (5-6, 4-5) has hovered around the middle of the pack. Brown (3-7-2, 3-4-2), which lost 27 straight games last year, leapt out of last place last weekend by upsetting Army and Princeton on the road.
And this weekend, the Elis and Bruins will head north to Bright to challenge the defending champs once again.
"We have to sweep these two games," Harvard forward Pete Ciavaglia said." Anything less would be a disappointment. At his point of the season, we need every point we can get."
Penalties plagued the Crimson in its season-opening defeat to Yale, and Harvard will have to avoid needless trips to the box tonight.
"Last weekend, we played great, but we still spent too much time in the penalty box," said wing John Murphy, who tallied a goal and three assists in the two victories. "That gives opponents opportunities to score, and it tires us out. I don't think these teams can beat us if we play even strength."
Despite backup netminder Mike Francis's stellar performance last Saturday night against St. Lawrence, Harvard Coach Bill Cleary said he would return to his regular goaltending rotation for this weekend at least. Chuckie Hughes will man the nets tonight, while Allain Roy will be between the pipes tomorrow against Brown.
Yale's offensive attack has been charged by its leading scorer, forward Jeff Blaeser--who netted a hat trick against the Crimson in November. The defense is anchored by junior goalie Ray Letourneau, who saved 35 Harvard shots that night.
Brown Coach Bob Gaudet will bring the youngest squad in the ECAC into Bright tomorrow. Two freshmen skate on each of his four lines, and another frosh can be found on each of his top two defensive pairings.
But his top two players are upperclassmen: wing Bob Kenneally, a converted center who leads the Bruins in scoring, and goaltender Chris Harvey.
"Harvard's playing a lot better than they were at the beginning of the season, but we've improved, too," said Gaudet, whose squad has not had a home league game since Kenneally's goal gave Brown a tie against the Crimson two months ago. "We can't worry about them. We can only concentrate on what we can control--our effort, our preparation, our enthusiasm and our desire."
Cleary, whose 316th win last week made him Harvard's all-time winningest coach, is adopting a similar attitude.
"We won't change anything because of them," he said. "I'm a great one for letting others worry about me instead of me worrying about them."
He isn't worrying about another Lost Weekend, either.