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ITHACA, N.Y.--C.J. Young is always the last player out of the locker room after Harvard hockey games.
Here at Lynah Rink Saturday, Young, the Crimson captain, took even longer than usual.
"I didn't want to take the jersey off," said Young, who, along with four other Harvard seniors, had just reached the end of a long and successful Crimson career. "It's hard to accept that this is it...it's hard to let it finish this way."
There could hardly be a more disparate set of endings.
The images of last year's final game will live forever in the minds of Young and his classmates. They remember The Goal, the celebration, Lane MacDonald lofting the NCAA championship trophy into the air.
Saturday the celebration was replaced by tears.
When senior Tod Hartie took to the ice for his final shift, he turned to look at the clock, which read 29 seconds, and the scoreboard, which read Cornell, 4-2 not once, not twice, but three times. When the final buzzer blew, he put his head down and cried.
On the bench, senior Scott McCormack sat, head down, holding a silent vigil with fellow defender Kevin Sneddon. At the other end of the rink, Young knelt in silence next to the goal. There were few players who left the ice with dry eyes.
They had taken a big fall, finishing "The Season After" in Cornell's rink, in the ECAC quarterfinals, with many weekends of college hockey left to play. But the seniors--Young, Hartie, McCormack, John Murphy and Brian Popiel--were not comparing endings. They were simply thinking about the end.
"Right now, [last season] is not the first thing on my mind," Hartje said. "In the locker room, I didn't want to close up my bag. I left my jersey just sitting there on top of my pads for as long as I could. I knew when I zipped it up that would be it--it would be the end ofmy career."
"But I really have nothing but great memories,"Hartje continued, "and I think the other guyswould agree. This has been the greatestexperience. We're going to walk away with ourheads up high."
The Crimson had reason to be proud on Saturday.Even when the game was far out of reach, there wasno chippiness, no unnecessary fighting andcertainly no giving up. When the two teams linedup for the post-game handshake, Young huggedCornell's Dave Burke and Tim Vanini and, amidstthe screams of the Big Red fans who had floodedthe ice, wished them luck.
"I was impressed with the way they played it,"Burke said. "They were nothing but good sportsabout it all."
The Crimson played it like gentlemen for a goodreason--out of respect for Bill Cleary, who wascoaching his final game.
"We fought hard to the end," Murphy said."Coach really wanted us to do that. We did it forhim."
Cleary smiled as he hugged his players,congratulated the Big Red, shook the hands ofYoung's little brother and Murphy's mom. He didnot look like a man who had just ended a 19-yearcoaching career with a losing season.
"[The players] gave me the best years of mylife," said Cleary, his voice finally succumbingto the emotion. "It's not that we didn't win thatmakes it so hard. It's the people, the memories.It's hard to leave."
In the end, it wasn't Doug Derraugh's fourgoals or Jim Crozier's big saves or even their ownmistakes that beat Cleary and Young, Hartje andMurphy, McCormack and Popiel.
It was time.
"I just wish...," Young began, then paused fora moment. "I just wish we had another year."
Big Red, 4-2 in Ithaca, N. Y.
Cornell 2-2-0--4HARVARD 1-0-1--2
First Period: 1, C, Doug Derraugh 16(Joe Dragon) 0:51; 2, C, Ross Lemon 23 (CaseyJones, Alex Nikolic) 2:02, 3, H, John Weisbrod 11(Jim Coady, Craig Miskovich) 7:59.
Penalties--H, Tim Burke (tripping) 8:06; H,bench served by Scott Barringer (too many men)18:56.
Second Period: 4, C, Trent Andison 8(Lemon, Tim Vanini) 10:44 (pp); 5, C, Ryan Hughes7 (Jones, Kent Manderville) 18:35 (pp).
Penalties--H, Matt Malgrave (high-sticking)7:52; H, Tod Hartje (elbowing) 9:49, C, benchserved by Jim Goerz (delay of game) 10:44; H,Burke (roughing) 12:02; C, Dan Ratushny (roughing)12:02; C, Jones (high-sticking) 14:56; H, ScottMcCormack (holding) 17:45; H, Miskovich (slashing)19:38.
Third Period: 6, H, Mike Vukonich 22(John Murphy, C.J. Young) 6:20.
Penalties--H, Ted Donato (game misconduct)19:05; C, bench served by Goerz (delay of game)19:05.
Saves: C, Jim Crozier 4-12-9--25; H,Allain Roy 11-7-4--22.
Power Play: C, 2-5; H, 0-4.
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