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All Lines Are NOT Created Equal

Shenk Tank

By Gary R. Shenk

The philosophy of four equal lines, originally preached by ex-Harvard men's hockey Coach Bill Cleary, was always de jure, not de facto. Cleary liked to think that any time he sent a line of forwards out onto the ice, the trio would have the potential to score.

In reality, there was always a `line of fire' that would bear the brunt on the scoresheet. In the NCAA championship year of 1988-89, it was the line of Lane MacDonald, Allen Bourbeau and C.J. Young. Last year, Cleary teamed Young up with John Murphy and Mike Vukonich for the Crimson's highest point total by far.

Cleary disciple Ronn Tomassoni took the helm of the Crimson this year championing the same idealistic egalitarianism of his old boss. The new coach originally spread his five most talented forwards--seniors Vukonich, Peter Ciavaglia, Ted Donato and John Weisbrod and sophomore Ted Drury--over the top three lines rather than stacking one.

But with Weisbrod sidelined indefinitely with a back injury, Tomassoni, too, has created a line of fire. The Vukonich-Ciavaglia-Donato line, which was born at last Tuesday night's Dartmouth game, has become Harvard's superline of 1990.

And super it has been.

Yesterday at Bright Center, the line was responsible for seven of nine Crimson goals. Ciavaglia (four goals, two assists) and Donato (1-5) each had six points, while Vukonich (2-3) added five more. Nine seconds into sudden-death overtime, Donato slipped a pass through the crease to Ciavaglia, who directed the puck into the twines for a magical 9-8 Harvard victory.

"They've been our leaders right from the beginning and they certainly showed it [against Colgate]," Tomassoni said.

Against Dartmouth, the trio was responsible for six of eight Harvard tallies. In the Crimson's Friday night win over then-league-leading Cornell, Vukonich had two goals, Ciavaglia had a goal and an assist and Donato had four assists.

"Things are rolling--it's kind of the magic combination," Ciavaglia said. "We all really click well together. We read off each other well."

Ciavaglia and Donato's beautiful stickhandling and passing, combined with Vukonich's powerful shot and strength around the crease, accounts for a lot of the line's clicking. Any time three Hobey Baker candidates storm the ice together, they are going to produce goals.

The three players are Harvard's three leading point scorers on the season. Donato (5-18--23) and Ciavaglia (10-12--22) top the ECAC in scoring, while Vukonich's 11 goals leads the Crimson.

"When the three of us go out on the ice, we don't care who has the puck," Vukonich said. "We all know that each player is so talented that they're going to get the puck to the other two."

But talent isn't everything behind the line's prolific numbers. There is an intangible chemistry which also gives force to the trio. Each player has an acute sense of where his linemates will be--a knowledge developed by the group's four years of playing hockey together.

"We've been through a lot together," Donato said. "We've played in the big games together and we know a lot about each other."

This is the first time, however, that the trio has teamed up together on the same line. It has been a long time since even two of the three have skated regular shifts together, although the triumvirate has combined on the power play for the last two seasons.

Ciavaglia and Donato played together on the under-16 and under-17 national teams back in high school. The duo also teamed up during their freshman year--when Ciavaglia led the Crimson in scoring.

"I've been sporting my 25th reunion tie, back with Pete," said Donato, delighted to be back with his former linemate.

Vukonich played on a line with Donato two years ago during Harvard's championship season. Last year, Vukonich teamed up with Ciavaglia at the beginning of the season. The roommate duo was bagged, however, after Harvard lost and tied in its opening weekend.

Now, it appears the three forwards will probably play with each other for the rest of their collegiate careers. Tomassoni would be a fool to split up the winning combination--even when Weisbrod returns.

With the line's success in its three games together, aficionadoes are already comparing the trio to the nationally feared H-E-M and S-A-M lines at crosstown B.C. and B.U. Too bad V-C-D isn't a convenient acronym.

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