The transition wasn’t seamless at first, but there’s no questioning that it’s going smoothly now: Brendan Bernakevitch is a center, and a very capable one at that.
Bernakevitch, a junior who played wing during his first two seasons, was forced to move to the pivot this year after the graduation of Crimson middlemen Dominic Moore, Brett Nowak and Aaron Kim.
As a freshman and sophomore, Bernakevitch found his niche alongside forwards Tom Cavanagh and Tim Pettit on a line that was arguably the team’s best by the end of each season. This season, though, Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni asked Bernakevitch to center his own line.
That has taken some adjusting.
“Night and day,” said Bernakevitch, a native of Regina, Saskatchewan. “I didn’t think it would be that much of a difference moving from wing to center, but it really is.”
Bernakevitch played with several combinations of wingers during the first half of the season, none of which clicked particularly well. He had two-point games at Vermont and Boston College, but also went six games without a point.
The result: Bernakevitch had eight points over the first 17 games.
But Mazzoleni surrounded Bernakevitch with senior wingers Dennis Packard and Rob Fried during the Dec. 28 Dunkin Donuts Coffee Pot consolation game and liked what he saw. With the exception of one small change—freshman Ryan Maki has played in Fried’s place the last three games—the line has gone untouched, emerging as arguably the Crimson’s best two-way line heading into this weekend’s quarterfinal series at Brown.
The result: Bernakevitch has 15 points over the last 14 games.
“Things are starting to fall into place for him,” Mazzoleni said. “It’s a whole new responsibility for Brendan this year. He’s at the forefront now. Last year, he had a secondary role. It takes time to feel comfortable with that.”
Bernakevitch is still getting used to the nuances of playing center, especially in the defensive zone, where he’s responsible for both sides of the ice.
“It’s a lot harder to get in position,” Bernakevitch said. “I don’t think I’m completely adjusted to center just yet, but I can see the different perspective now. I’ve been gaining confidence over the year.”
Packard and Maki have reaped the benefits of that maturation. Packard recorded a point in both games last weekend, and Maki has a four-game point-scoring streak—not to mention three goals—after going 25 games before scoring his first collegiate goal.
“You know where they’re going to be now,” Bernakevitch said. “You look, and the guy’s there. That kind of thing just comes with time.
“The best comment a player can have is that he makes everyone else’s job easy, and that’s Pack in a nutshell. It’s almost like I work less hard and get more done.”