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M. Hockey Freshmen Stopped Playing Like It In Time For Playoffs

MAK THE KNIFE
Timothy M. Mcdonald

Freshman forward Ryan Maki scored for the Crimson during Harvard's 5-4 loss to Maine in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 26 in Albany, N.Y.

ALBANY, N.Y.—They may still be freshmen in name, but these guys sure aren’t rookies any more.

After struggling to find its niche amid a sea of upperclass talent, Harvard’s first-year quartet—Kevin Du, Ryan Maki, Steve Mandes and Dylan Reese—blossomed during the stretch run, tallying 10 of its 32 points in the Crimson’s seven playoff games, including three in the season finale against Maine.

“Your freshmen, you hope, after Christmas time, won’t play like freshmen any more,” Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “And our freshmen surely didn’t.”

Exuding confidence against the heavily-favored Black Bears, the fearsome foursome provided an early spark to a previously lackluster Crimson attack.

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Skating the second shift on Harvard’s opening power play, Du and Reese had Maine’s flummoxed defenders distantly chasing the puck while smoothly delivered passes scooted along the surface behind them.

Taking possession behind the net, Du—the posse’s top scorer with 10, edging out Mandes’ nine for the honor—found sophomore Charlie Johnson hugging the opposite post behind Black Bears’ netminder Jimmy Howard. A quick tip from Johnson placed the puck squarely on Reese’s tape at the right circle with no one in position to defend.

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Two weekends earlier, against Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist Yann Danis and the Brown Bears, Reese had found himself in the same position more than once, all alone with one of the nation’s top goaltenders.

Then, he’d frozen. Still shaky after time off due to injury, Reese had held the puck, fidgeting, readjusting, hoping for the perfect angle. And each time, he’d come up empty.

This time, there was no hesitation, no second guessing, no doubt. Reese whipped the shot across Howard’s body and his extended arm, leaving him no chance.

“Seeing Dylan score his first goal,” Maki said, “was awesome.”

Though he would not notch another point, the Pittsburgh product had a bird’s-eye view for two of the final three Crimson tallies—or at least an inside-the-blue-line-eye view. Though he would not notch another point, the Pittsburgh product had a bird’s-eye view for two of the final three Crimson tallies—or at least an inside-the-blue-line-eye view.

After playing tentative, unsure hockey for weeks, Reese had arrived, alongside his teammates, who’d gotten a jump start with their clean bills of health.

Not that Maki had made it much sooner.

Blanked in the goal column until the final weekend of the regular season, the physical forward found the twine almost as soon as he and linemates Du and assistant captain Tyler Kolarik finished exchanging pleasantries.

“We’ve stabilized our shifts,” Mazzoleni said. “We had a lot of contributions from some very young people.”

Rattling off four shots, Maki not only capitalized on the space left open for him, but aggressively slashed through the Black Bears’ blue liners, looking to notch another tally.

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