Most freshmen use their winter break to kick back, relax, and unwind after having completed their first semester of college. Adam Fox is not most freshmen.
A budding hockey star from Jericho, New York, Fox currently mans the blue line for the ninth-ranked Harvard men’s hockey team. But during his time off from school, the rookie swapped out Crimson for Red, White, and Blue.
After spending the last two years within USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, Fox received the opportunity of a lifetime this winter—a chance to represent Team USA at the World Junior Championships in Canada.
Put on each year by the International Ice Hockey Federation, the World Junior Championships showcase the best under-20 talent from the top 10 hockey nations in the world. NHL legends like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as well as current stars like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have all played in the renowned competition, which originated in 1977.
In the 41st edition of the tournament, Fox’s turn arrived. And the Calgary Flames draft selection made good on his opportunity. Playing for gold on Jan. 5 in front of more than 20,000 spectators at the Bell Centre—home of the Montreal Canadiens—Fox had a field day against Team Canada. The defenseman tallied three assists, the last of which tied the tournament finale at four in the third period, ultimately forcing 20 additional minutes of sudden-death hockey.
Neither side struck gold in the overtime period, leaving the fate of the two rivals to a pressure-packed shootout—one that saw the Stars and Stripes convert on only one of five tries. But somehow, some way, one goal proved be enough, as Fox and the Americans emerged victorious on enemy soil.
“It’s something I’ll remember forever,” Fox said. “Being able to do that with such close friends in that atmosphere and that stage—it was something I’ll remember forever.”
“It was obviously just such a stressful and enjoyable time being there in that atmosphere,” he added. “It’s one of the biggest stages for hockey, so I was just so happy that we won.”
The United States ran the table on its way to gold, finishing the preliminary group stage with a perfect 4-0-0 record before squeezing by Switzerland, Russia, and Canada in the knockout rounds. And with Fox appearing in all seven games, members of the Harvard team were certainly tuning in.
“We’re all watching, we’re all pulling for him,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 while the tournament was still ongoing. “It’s such a great tournament and a great stage. I think he deserves the opportunity. He’s earned it.”
Through his first 18 collegiate games, Fox has logged two goals and 20 assists for the Crimson, making him the national leader in points per game among defenseman. He also runs the point on Harvard’s power play, which ranks first in the country in efficiency.
Fox now becomes the third Harvard skater in the last five years to play at World Juniors. Just last year, sophomore Ryan Donato played on the U.S. team that won bronze in Finland, while Jimmy Vesey ’16 won gold with Team USA back in 2013.
The freshman’s presence in Canada did mean that the Crimson had to do without him for its contest against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Dec. 30. But the tournament was far less kind to Harvard’s Beanpot neighbors. Nine of the 24 players on Team USA’s championship roster hailed from either Boston University (six) or Boston College (three). Among them was Eagles goaltender Joe Woll, who originally committed to Harvard in 2014 before changing course for Chestnut Hill.
Fox too wound up heading for Chestnut Hill rather recently, just not by his own accord. All 10 members of Team USA’s Massachusetts contingent traveled home on the same bus from Canada the day after winning gold, but Fox mistakenly wound up being the last skater to reach his destination.
The only problem? Harvard had a game to play at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center at 7 p.m., against defending ECAC champion Quinnipiac no less. And the clock wasn’t doing Fox any favors.
“From what I heard, they actually drove through Harvard,” Fox said. “But we weren’t really paying attention and then ended up at BU, then went to BC, and then finally came back here.”
If Fox didn’t make it back in time, no one outside the Crimson locker room would have thought twice. Fox had just played three games in four nights, two of which required overtime, and Coach Donato had been saying all week that the defenseman’s status was up in the air.
Later, Donato revealed that he had given Fox the option to take the weekend off. But the freshman planned on suiting up all along. Only an hour remained until puck drop when the freshman “cruised” his way into the Bright, according to Donato, but he was immediately inserted into the lineup as if nothing had ever happened.
“I was able to play, so that’s all that matters,” Fox said with a smile.
Despite playing in his third and fourth games in as many nights, Fox immediately picked up right where he left off, notching three more points over the weekend on tired legs and proving to Quinnipiac and Princeton that there just might not be a way of stopping the Fox.
Yet, considering the Crimson and Tigers met only two nights after Team USA’s championship-clincher, you couldn’t have faulted Princeton coach Ron Fogarty for having hope.
“I wish Fox had too many beers two nights ago so he couldn’t play,” Fogarty said. “He’s a really good hockey player.”
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MeagherTHC.