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Turano’s Ankle Injury Jeopardizes Season, Helps Motivate Teammates to Vermont Win

By Jon PAUL Morosi, SPECIAL TO THE CRIMSON

BURLINGTON, Vt.—Before Friday’s 6-4 win at Vermont, the left ankle of senior Kenny Turano was completely intact, fully functional and ready to go. Like every other part of his body, in every practice, and every game, he planned to put it to the test.

That’s the Kenny Turano way. He is, without question, one of the hardest workers on the Harvard hockey team.

“He’s a great guy for the locker room, the kind of kid we need on our team,” said assistant captain and blockmate Tyler Kolarik. “Just a blue-collar kid.”

And so it was no surprise that, three minutes and 45 seconds into the game, Turano skated hard to the right boards in the Harvard zone to battle for possession. The Crimson led, 1-0, after its first goal of the season, and, as usual, Turano was doing everything he could to keep his team ahead.

But then it happened. Turano went one way and his left ankle went the other as he was hit into the boards.

Snap.

“I was on the ice,” Kolarik lamented. “I saw it.”

Now, instead of that left ankle supporting Turano’s famously strong work ethic and gritty play, it is in pieces. The hit broke the ankle in two places. He had to be helped off the ice, and late that night assistant coach Bruce Irving drove him back to Boston for X-rays.

The evaluations confirmed everyone’s fears: He needs surgery. And three months of rehab. That would put his return somewhere in the middle of February.

Depending on how quickly he recovers, Turano may be able to return for the playoffs. But it is also possible that his Harvard career, after a confident finish last season and strong summer of workouts, is over.

“I know injuries are part of the game,” junior Tom Cavanagh admitted, “but you still hate to see this happen.”

Especially now. The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Turano. He was ready, by all accounts, to have a breakthrough senior year.

This was a player who had 13 points as a freshman, then watched his production dip as a sophomore (two points in 28 games) and the first half of his junior year (two points before Feb. 1).

In the Dec. 15 trip to Maine last year, Turano dressed and scored a goal. Later in the game, he broke a finger. He didn’t play for another month and a half.

But he came back on a tear. Skating with Dominic Moore ’03 and then-freshman Charlie Johnson, he scored nine points in a 12-game span at the end of the season. At one point, Mazzoleni said Turano had the “quickest release of anyone on the team, along with [Tim] Pettit.”

Turano was given the team’s Donald Angier Hockey Trophy, as the “player showing the greatest general improvement during the year.”

Then he had an exceptional summer of training. Turano was ready for a great year. So, so ready.

And now what? Surgery. Rehab. Sitting in the stands. This is one of those things in sports that just doesn’t seem fair. What did Kenny Turano do to deserve this besides work ungodly hard and give his teammates everything he had?

“I’m very upset,” Kolarik said outside Harvard’s locker room in Vermont Saturday night, as word began to spread about the severity of the injury. “Kenny’s a real good friend of mine, and a friend to a lot of guys on this team. Everyone loves Kenny.

“He puts his heart and soul into everything, and he’s going to be sorely missed if he has to be out for any period of time, and I pray to God that’s not the case.”

Sadly, it looks like he will be, and that grim realization seemed to go through the bench when Turano was helped off the ice. You could almost hear everyone on the Harvard bench say to one another, “Wow, man. This isn’t good. Kenny is so tough. He doesn’t just go down like that.”

So, they responded the way you’d expect them to, especially when considering six seniors on the ice Friday night live with him in Jordan (another member of the blocking group, Blair Barlow, was a healthy scratch).

Kolarik, who began the night skating on a line with Turano and junior Brendan Bernakevitch, finished with a goal and three assists. Packard scored two goals.

“Knowing the severity of the injury, it definitely gave us some extra motivation,” Packard said. “It’s really unfortunate, especially when he worked so hard this summer, and had a great training camp and pre-season here.”

“Kenny would’ve wanted us to keep fighting and get the ‘W’ for him,” Kolarik said.

That’s Kenny Turano’s nature, and that’s why all his teammates and buddies were so broken up Friday night.

While Harvard’s 12 NHL draft picks impressed pro scouts with their size, their skating or their shot, Turano’s greatest skill has always been difficult to quantify. But if players were judged on the great intangible statistic of effort per shift, he might be an All-American.

He just plain works. Hard. All the time.

But in a game where players are often judged—fairly or unfairly—based on the number of goals they score, Turano’s name always fell behind the Kolariks and Cavanaghs of Harvard’s team.

So maybe for the rest of the season, Harvard should be judged by its performance in Turano’s area of expertise. You know, work. Effort per shift. We’ll call it the Turano Quotient, TQ for short.

It’s a simple concept. For some, it’s hard to master. But it never was an issue with Turano, and it was in his name on Friday night that Harvard made sure he wasn’t injured in vain.

“He’s one of those guys who always thinks about the team first,” Cavanagh said the next night at Dartmouth. “I talked to him after the game, and he was more concerned about how the game went than how he was doing.”

And that’s why every last player on Harvard’s roster loves playing hockey with Kenny Turano. About his only flaw is that he roots for the Yankees. (He’s the only New York fan on the entire team, save a member of the coaching staff who shall remain nameless as part of the local Yankee Fan Protection Program.)

Turano talked so much trash during the ALCS that captain and Stoneham, Mass., native Kenny Smith refused to watch games with him. He was just too obnoxious about the damn Yankees.

So, while seven of the guys were watching in one room, Turano was banished to another. All alone.

At least now he can take some solace in the fact that he won. At a time like this, recovery starts with small victories.

Still, his teammates are left to shake their heads and wonder why this happened.

“It’s hard to watch a teammate and a good friend get injured like that,” said Barlow, who took Turano’s spot in the lineup Saturday. “He’s a player that takes his job very seriously. I feel pretty badly for him, not on the injury alone but the season going forward.

“He’s got a lot of heart. You really hate to see your friend in that much pain, knowing how hard he’s worked to get to the point he was. This is tough on all of us.”

And now, all of them will be here to help him. Everyone wants to see him skate again this year. In the meantime, his blockmates will take care of him, give him rides in their cars and help him get around to classes.

They’ll do whatever they can to get him back. It goes without saying that he’ll do the same.

—Staff writer Jon Paul Morosi can be reached at morosi@fas.harvard.edu.

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