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While for many coaches, finding recruits is usually like panning for gold in the Charles, Harvard men's hockey Coach Ronn Tomassoni has picked up nine freshman gems for the Crimson's Friday night season opener.
Last year, only three freshmen skated for the 13-14-1 squad. This year's bunch brings back youth to the team, with one more rookie hitting the ice than in the 1988-89 championship season.
After the graduation of four key Crimson defenders, the freshmen will provide valuable help at the blue line: Derek Maguire, Sean McCann, Sean Wenham and Lou Body are the depth chart at right defense, although not necessarily in that order.
"We needed some freshman on defense," said Tomassoni, who did most of the recruiting himself last year as associate coach. "We found them."
A ninth-round Montreal Canadiens draft pick this spring, Maguire joins junior Brian McCormack at the blue line. The New Jersey native, who Tomassoni describes as a "punishing type player," with a "heavy, accurate shot," also joins the power pay.
Maguire came to Harvard--instead of Princeton, RPI or Dartmouth--because he liked the coach and the program. Along with his classmates, however, the Wigglesworth resident did not think twice when Tomassoni replaced former Coach Bill Cleary at the helm.
"I had enough faith in the program," said Wenham, who was informed by Cleary that Tomassoni would be his probable succesor. "[Tomassoni's] the greatest guy in hockey I've ever met."
Wenham, who hails from nearby Duxbury, teams with junior Rich DeFreitas to form another freshman-veteran Crimson defensive pair. Wenham's older brother Scott starts at defense for the University of Lowell squad.
"Sunday's game [a 6-1 exhibition victory over Western Ontario] was a good way to break in," the Boston Globe All-Scholastic player said. "I played for a Division II public high school. From that to Sunday was a jump.
"I'm used to playing almost the whole game, feeling at ease and in control," Wenham added. "Sunday, I was just fighting to make the basic play."
McCann, who spent last year playing Junior B for the Thornhill Thunderbirds in Canada, plays the point with junior Kevin Sneddon.
The adjustments to college hockey for the Ontario native will be more stylistic.
"Sean's a very aggressive player," Tomassoni said. "His strength is in his own end."
"This is more of a speed and finesse game," the 6-ft., 180 lb. McCann said. "I hope that will change a bit... personally, I like the physical game more."
When looking at colleges, Matthews resident Body says his mind was pretty much made up.
"I looked at Brown and Notre Dame as well," said Body, who at 6-ft., 2-in. and 180 lbs. will try to live up to his name. "But there is a great tradition here...it's Harvard."
Junior Jim Coady is showing his new linemate the moves, as Body, who gets "better and better with each day he is exposed to good competition," Tomassoni said.
Body, an All-State golfer from New York, will pick up the clubs again for the Harvard team at the end of the hockey season.
For the four freshman blue-liners, the line between high school and college hockey will be drawn very clearly Friday night.
"I think it's good for us," Wenham said, referring to the all-freshman right D. "We can't make mistakes, since every person is just as inexperienced as the person behind him."
"I've been hearing all fall that our defense is a question mark," Tomassoni said. "A question mark can go either way, and from what I've seen it should be a strength.
Five other first-years will don a Crimson jersey during the season, with some making an immediate impact.
Michel Briestroff, who carries an accent from his home in Roubaix, France, spent the last two years in Canada to improve his hockey. Seniors Ted Donato and Mike Vukonich will look to the left wing to find Breistroff. Described by Tomassoni as a "big, strong kid who can fly," the Frenchman should blend well with the two veterans.
Brian Farrell, who also plays left wing, will look to sophomore center Ted Drury for the puck. The pair will also form part of the second penalty unit.
Farrell played his high school hockey at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut, and has previously played with Drury and the Crimson's four senior forwards in last summer's Olympic Festival. He joined classmates Maguire and Body for Hockey Night in Boston last year.
David Kilkpatrick and Gud Gardner will also see some time this winter. While Tomassoni can only dress four lines, Kilkpatrick and Gardner could provide the Crimson with needed depth.
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