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Everyone loves to talk about how wireless communication has changed the world. How quickly they forget that the quickest mode of information transfer has been around for years—college hockey rinks.
Want to start a rumor? Tap the guy next to you on the shoulder during warm-ups and whisper something about No. 21. It’ll go around the rink and come back to you in an hour.
Rumors, of course, tend to beget more rumors when things don’t go well. So when the Harvard men’s hockey team struggled during the second half of the 2001-2002 regular season, the ping rate on negative puck-talk was at its peak, and criticism was mostly directed at the Crimson’s marquee players.
“You know Dominic Moore?” some would say. “His production is down this year. People were talking about him as a Hobey Baker Award candidate before the season, but there’s no way that’s going to happen now.”
“See Tim Pettit?” others said. “Got a good shot, strong on the power play, but he’s been having trouble scoring when five-on-five.”
Moore’s point production fell from 43 points two years ago to 29 last season. Pettit’s took a dip, as well, going from 31 to 26. Harvard’s regular-season win total went in the same direction.
In other words, the Crimson goes as Dominic Moore and Tim Pettit go. Last year, inconsistency was the theme. Now Harvard is two games away from its first-ever set of back-to-back ECAC titles and has hit the 20-win mark for the first time in nine seasons.
Not surprisingly, the Crimson’s big scorers have had a lot to do with that comeback. Pettit (37 points) and Moore (36) were 1-2 in ECAC regular-season scoring. Moore, with 143 career points, could become one of Harvard’s top 10 all-time scorers by the end of the season, while Pettit has become the first junior to crack 100 points since Steve Martins ’95. Both are strong candidates for the ECAC Player of the Year Award, to be announced tonight at the ECAC awards banquet in Albany, N.Y.
“This was one of the toughest votes I’ve ever had to cast,” said St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh. “Dominic Moore has had an incredible career; he’s a very dangerous player in all three zones. Pettit can really shoot the puck—and bury it.”
Neither player, though, seems to be thinking about individual accolades too much.
“We’re at a point where we’re probably going to have to win the ECACs to reach our goal of making the NCAA tournament,” Pettit said. “We have to come in with the attitude that we’re going to play for one another. If everyone does his job and we play for another [one], we’re going to be successful.”
Harvard hockey captains are usually named at the team banquet each spring. That way, the player chosen has a chance to work into his leadership role during the off-season and prepare for the added responsibilities that come with the job once official practice begins in October.
This year was an exception. Moore was not named captain until the fall. Nevertheless, his adjustment period could not have gone more smoothly.
“He’s done an excellent job as captain this year,” said sophomore goalie Dov Grumet-Morris. “Dom’s a difference-maker. Every team needs a difference-maker, every coach wants to recruit one, and every player wants to play with one. You know every time he’s out there he’s giving your team a chance to win. He’s the type of individual that can tip the scales in your favor in a close game.”
And, like a true difference-maker, Moore has played his best hockey late in the season. Since Harvard’s 2-1 loss to Boston University in the Beanpot semifinals, he has been one of the hottest players in the nation, racking up 25 points over 10 games.
During that span, Moore has played between wingers Charlie Johnson and Kenny Turano, both of whom haveseen their production increase thanks to Moore’s playmaking capabilities.
“After every shift, he gets back on the bench and tells us what we’re doing right and how we can improve,” said Johnson, who leads Harvard freshmen in scoring with 17 points. “He’s been the absolute leader of this team. He’s the kind of player I fashion myself to be someday. I just have so much respect for him as a player and a person. He’s such a leader and a calming presence for us.”
Even considering his team-high 47 points, it may be Moore’s ability to keep the team on an even keel that is his biggest asset during the pressure-filled postseason.
“He’s a very cool, very calm customer,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “Not a lot gets Dom excited, and that’s really become a strength of his. He doesn’t get too shaken up about things. Probably the one that does is me—I’m up and down—but Dom stays pretty balanced. That really works out well for us.”
Things weren’t always so smooth last season. Moore got frustrated when the team struggled and sometimes tried to do too much to compensate.
“The attitude I’ve always been successful with was to just go out and play, and I think I got away from that a little last year,” Moore said. “I was putting pressure on myself. When you’re a scorer, there’s a lot of pressure on you to consistently produce, and I think I was trying to create sometimes when things weren’t there. This year I’ve learned to take it all in, seize the opportunity and take a more relaxed approach.
“People can say what they want about last year as far as my individual performance, but I kind of believe that there’s no such thing as a bad experience. I learned a lot of things last season that made me a better player and a better person. It was never about proving anything; it was just going out there and doing my job.”
Now, Moore and his classmates—the first group of players to play for Mazzoleni from the start of their careers—have several weeks to leave their mark on the Harvard program.
“It’s my last chance, and as a captain it’s an added responsibility,” he said. “I’ve tried to create a collective atmosphere of winning on the team this year. This is the best team I’ve played for, and the most fun I’ve had here.
“Our expectations are farther than where we got last year. That’s something we take pride in as the leadership of the team.”
Mazzoleni calls it a “hammer.” Tom Cavanagh thinks it’s closer to a “blast.” Others lean toward “cannon.”
Call it what you will, but be sure your hyperbole of choice captures just how strong Tim Pettit’s slap shot really is.
“Timmy has developed into probably our most dangerous offensive weapon,” Mazzoleni said. “He’s a kid that really has tremendous offensive instincts, excellent puck skills, and is arguably one of the hardest shotsin all of college hockey. He’s just a real natural finisher. He knows how to finish plays.”
No one can question Pettit’s goal-scoring talent – he has scored 46 times in 96 career games – but some have had trouble describing exactly what makes his shot so good.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Cavanagh, Pettit’s linemate. “I know he works on it a lot, and some of it’s natural. He just has the right motion. He’s not flashy about it, but he gets the job done. Tim’s a real smart player, and he reads the play real well.
He’s a real easy guy to play with, and he knows what to do with the puck. If he has an open shot, it’s usually in the back of the net.”
But as much as Pettit’s point total has increased this season relative to his first two, there hasn’t been much of a change in his goal-scoring numbers. He had 14 goals in 2000-2001, when he was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, then 16 last year and 16 so far this season.
Instead, the change has been in Pettit’s playmaking.
He was the ECAC’s regular-season assist leader (23) and is tied for the team lead with 27 overall – 17 more than he had last year. Pettit had five assists—to five different goal-scorers—in the Crimson’s 6-3 win at Princeton
Dec. 6, and during a six-game stretch in February, he recorded 12 points, including seven assists.
“I’ve been really fortunate to get the chance to play with all three of our centers, Brett [Nowak] and Dom at different times, and Tommy a lot,” Pettit said. “With the skill level they have, that’s given me a lot of chances where I can make plays this year, and I’ve been able to capitalize on more of my opportunities.”
As many opportunities as Pettit has taken advantage of during the season, he has managed to stay out of the public eye to the point that Mazzoleni called him “the most unheralded player in the league” and said that “something is wrong” if Pettit doesn’t make first-team
All-ECAC and get strong consideration for Player of the Year.
“Timmy’s a quiet guy,” Moore said. “When you look at him, he’s a small guy, pretty unassuming, doesn’t play a tremendously physical game, and doesn’t attract a lot of attention off the ice. That’s why he doesn’t get a lot of recognition.
“You always don’t notice him, but he plays a very smart game. It’s his smarts that make him successful. You know you’ve got a good player on your hands when you don’t even notice him out there but he’s making a big difference on the outcome of the game.”
Pettit’s single-game contributions, however, pale in comparison to the impact he has made, along with the rest of the Crimson’s junior class, to the Harvard program in general. Pettit and his classmates were the first recruits Mazzoleni brought to Cambridge, and each has had a hand in the Crimson’s return to national respectability.
“I’ll always be indebted to those guys,” Mazzoleni said. “It’s a group that came in here when the program hadn’t experienced a great amount of success in the previous six years. I give them a lot of credit for casting their lot with us, because kids usually want to go somewhere that’s having success right then. But they believed in us as a staff and believed in this program.”
It’s a very close-knit group, as Pettit lives with seven of those juniors in Jordan.
“Those guys have pretty much been my experience here,” Pettit said. “We know everything about each other and what we’re doing. I see them all day long. And there’s nothing you do in our room that can’t be made fun of later.”
But intense video game tournaments aside, Pettit, his roommates, and the rest of the Crimson are well aware of how important this weekend is.
“When it comes to this point, we play with a lot of urgency,” Pettit said. “And our team becomes that much stronger.”
—Staff writer Jon P. Morosi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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