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After last year’s mediocre regular season, the Harvard men’s hockey team made an improbable playoff run, cutting down ECAC rival after rival and ending up—who would have though it?—in the NCAA Tournament. It was several months of disappointment followed by several weeks of redemption.
“I don’t really want to do that this year,” captain Noah Welch said frankly. “That’s a little too much to rely on at the end of the season.”
So now that last season’s ups and downs are out of the squad’s system, the players are ready to try something different—win from the start.
And why not change things up? With a new coach, nine freshmen and a transfer sophomore to boot, there’s no sense in denying the obvious—this team has changed.
There are holdovers from last year, however, and if hockey is played from the goal out, the Crimson begins in relatively solid standing. Senior netminder Dov Grumet-Morris secured his job as starter last year with numbers that hovered consistently at the top of the nation, even when Harvard’s record did not.
“He makes some saves that he just shouldn’t make,” says assistant captain Ryan Lannon. “Sometimes you find yourself shaking your head on the bench—you can’t believe that his body contorts the way that it does.”
So that’s good news, as is the fact that the Crimson returns a veteran and hard-working defensive corps that is, at this point, healthy.
Ever-reliable Lannon and captain Noah Welch represent the senior class on the blueline, while Peter Hafner and Tom Walsh—both of whom turned in strong showings in a 2-2 tie against Brown last weekend—represent the juniors.
And then there’s Dylan Reese, the sophomore whose promising freshman campaign was dulled by injury, and freshman Dave McDonald, who earned the start against Brown.
In light of this experience, few are questioning Harvard’s defensive strength—rather, it’s the offense that poses the question for this year’s squad.
New coach Ted Donato ’91 brings to his alma mater a quick, agressive gameplan, one which—if it clicks—could very well win the Crimson its fair share of games.
This is all dependent, of course, on the forwards, many of whom already employ a speedy, high-energy game.
Returning sophomores Kevin Du and Steve Mandes are markedly high-energy skaters, while junior Charlie Johnson, senior Brendan Bernakevitch and assistant captain Tom Cavanagh all possess the ability to rack up multi-point game after game, should the puck bounce Harvard’s way.
Senior Rob Flynn and junior Dan Murphy add a deep foundation to the Crimson’s offense, but throughout the lines are sprinkled freshmen, and it is on them that the onus will in large part rest.
“It’s a big jump in the level of competition and the speed and the pace [from] what they are used to,” Donato said, “but I think the freshman forwards all looked like they could survive at this level and, hopefully, be able to help us more and more as we go along.”
Already making strong impressions are Jon Pelle, Alex Meintel, Paul Dufault and Tyler Magura, all of whom will bear a large portion of the pressure heaped upon Harvard’s offense should this season begin as the last one did.
Of course, last year’s ending—the NCAA tournament— was nice. But this season, it’s all about a fresh start.
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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