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Making the Pieces Fit

Shir Madness


If all the pieces are there, building a winning hockey program can, at times, seem like solving a Rubik's cube. One row down, another over to the right, a third to the left.

The puzzle solver's work does not end with one red or blue or green side, but continues until all six sides stand complete in their separate solid colors.

The hockey coach, like the puzzle solver, looks for a combination of moves that will take him closer to a goal. This often demands a willingness to change things around, to attack the problem from a different direction, to break up an intact line for the benefit of the whole.

Through 10 games, including Harvard's exhibition against the Polish National Team, coach Tomassoni has put a total of 40 lines on the ice. In doing so, he has used 24 different forward combinations.

(Disclaimer: Even combinations that appear on pregame line sheets distributed in the press box are subject to change during games, Tomassoni's observations pending.)

The lines of Matt Macleod-Henry Higdon-Craig Adams and Jamin Kerner-Brett Chodorow-Craig MacDonald have appeared most often--but only five times.

But more common is the plight of a skater like Trevor Allman, who could qualify as college hockey's version of the journeyman. The freshman forward has played on eight separate line combinations and with nine different Crimson forwards--and you wonder why it might have taken until Sunday night for him to pick up his first two assists of the season.

Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni took Sunday night's game against the Northeastern Huskies as an opportunity to approach anew the problems that have plagued the men's hockey team this season. Since its opening 5-3 victory against Brown, the Crimson has struggled to produce more than two goals a contest.

And although the team's penalty killing unit has been impressive, allowing only five goals in nine regular-season contests, the power play has consistently been another story--going 2-for-56 on the season and 0 for its last 54.

So, against the Huskies, line changes were again the order of the day.

Noticeably missing from Sunday night's line-up were junior center Henry Higdon, sophomore defenseman Ben Storey, junior right winger Ethan Philpott and freshman left winger Jamin Kerner.

Was Tomassoni trying to send any of these players a message, with a strategic benching against weak, non-league opposition? Or was he merely mixing lines once more, looking for that magical threesome that might score multiple times within the same game?

If Tomassoni tried the latter, it only worked to a point. While two new line combinations appeared against Northeastern, it was the more familiar trio of Sproule-All-man-Moore that tallied three of the Crimson's four goals.

Hopefully, Allman's travelling days may soon be over. Hopefully, Tomassoni will soon find line combinations he's comfortable with--maybe then Harvard's forwards can find the scoring consistency which has been lacking thus far.

Coach Tomassoni would be the first to tell you that "the hockey season is a marathon not a sprint," and that "championships aren't won in November."

But no matter which race is being run, it's nice to know who's in the running.

Welcome to December.

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