The wait is over.
That's right, for returning upperclassmen, hopeful first-years, year-abroad travelers, media and section 12 maniacs alike:
Harvard hockey is back.
Well, tomorrow night's game is only an exhibition, but the contest will provide several interesting points to focus on when Harvard students, alumni and fans alike pile into Bright Hockey Center.
Thus, for those of you who are new to the Harvard hockey scene--or maybe perhaps just chose to block out of your mind the roller coaster ride that the 1994-95 season was--here are a few things to watch for tomorrow night:
... Keep an eye on captain Brad Konik--the only remaining link to Harvard's lone national championship team (as a freshman in 1991-92, he skated with seniors who were freshmen on the 1988-89 championship team--stay with me here). Over the past few years, the captainship has altered the playing style of several Crimson captains--maybe we'll see a peek of that tomorrow night.
... Also take a look at Tripp Tracy. This past season marked a small downswing in terms of numbers for the senior netminder, although the numbers still kept him among the ECAC leaders. Which Tripp Tracy emerges this year will play a role in the Crimson fate.
... Keep a very close eye on the Crimson power play--last year's unit didn't come close to the eye-popping numbers of the 1993-94 team, and Harvard now cries out for a quarterback to spark the group. With no first-team All-Americans to provide some spunk to the shorthanded unit, the special teams certainly are a big question mark.
... From the "can't help BUT keep an eye on department," welcome back crowd favorite Ethan Philpott. His eight games and one point certainly didn't win any stats prize for the 1993-94 year, but his physical presence put fear in the hearts of any opponent. And a year spent in the rinks of Des Moines, Iowa certainly won't hurt his on-ice disposition.
... What about the freshmen? They come highly-touted, they come not of huge size and they come in hordes. Rumor has it that Harvard possesses the best freshman class in the ECAC. Pay attention, Harvard fans, for they will be asked to immediately provide support for the senior class.
Keep an extra-close eye on goaltender Peter Zakowich--not only does he represent the future of Harvard goaltending, but he also represents the "healthy competition" Coach Ronn Tomassoni desires in his goaltenders.
Right from the get-go, keep close tabs on Harvard's first line, most probably a three-senior connection. The class of '96 has always been expected to produce more than it has, and with this year comes crunch time.
No longer is there a plethora of first-team ECAC players and all-tournament thoroughbreds to handle the pressure. The first gut-check of the year occurs tomorrow at Bright. Although the game usually has no bearing on how the season will come out, the individuals playing key roles in that outcome start their quest then.
Finally, and perhaps most notably, glance around at the Harvard crowd. Needless to say, the fair-weather Harvard fans had much to groan about after a 5-8-3 home record last year, along with several mentionings from players that it was less pressurized to play on the road. Luckily for the Harvard hockey program--excepting organic chemistry equations, U.C. scandals, and rejected applications--Harvard students' memories are short.
Let's get ready to rumble.