They barely had time to get to know the rest of their teammates before they were paired together.
Now, more than three months later, Harvard freshman hockey players Steve Moore and Chris Bala are still skating on the same line and have become one of the most dangerous forward tandems in all of the ECAC.
At first glance, the blond, youthful-looking Bala contrasts sharply with the darker, more brooding Moore. Once the physical appearances are put aside and the masks are brought down over their faces, however, the differences begin to fade.
Both stand at a towering 6'2, with a mere 10 pounds separating the two. Their size and raw strength provide a presence in the corners, but their styles are better suited for the open ice. It is there where Bala and Moore can exploit the opposing defense with their quickness and deft stick-handling skills.
Normally a contrast in style is what creates harmony between linemates, but for the Harvard freshmen it is their similarities that have kept them together since the beginning.
"I think that we are just two similar players who have pretty good size between us," says Bala, a Pennsylvania native. "I don't think that it's because one does one thing particularly better than the other at all. It's more of a give and take between us."
Even though they are only freshmen, Bala and Moore have played every game together and most recently have been paired in the special team units.
Harvard Coach Ronn Tomassoni immediately noticed a chemistry between the two during preseason and thus placed Moore and Bala together on a line with junior Craig Adams in the team's exhibition game against McGill on Nov. 1. Adams' physical style, coupled with the play-making freshmen, made for a powerful first line--on paper. But the youth of the two first-years left overarching question marks.
Not surprisingly the results were slow in coming, as only Moore picked up as much as an assist in that exhibition game. The first four games further proved to be a training ground for the newly-constructed line, as they amassed only four points combined.
But patience paid off for Tomassoni.
Three weeks after the McGill christening, the line finally found its rhythm. Facing off against then-No. 8 Boston College, Bala, Moore and Adams spearheaded a Harvard attack which produced three goals en route to a 4-3 overtime win.
Bala and Moore have scored at least one point in each of the team's last five games.
"I think during the exhibition game [Coach Tomassoni] tried a few different line combinations throughout the game, and we seemed to work together really well from the start," Moore says. "[The chemistry] has always been there, but we have definitely gotten better since then."
The maturation of the freshmen occurred very quickly despite the mid-season loss of Adams, who has been side-lined with a shoulder injury since December. While his right-wing slot remains a revolving door of Crimson forwards, the chemistry between Bala and Moore has grown even stronger. They have become Harvard's main offensive threat, shouldering the burden of a team offense which mustered a dismal 2.63 goals-per-game average last season.
They have responded to the challenge in resounding fashion. Bala currently leads the team with six goals and 12 assists, while Moore is not far behind with three and 15 respectively.
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