Each year, the end of the Harvard men’s hockey season is truly bittersweet. It provides an opportunity for the program to celebrate the individual and collective accomplishments of its players, while also forcing it to confront the reality that not everyone will return for next year’s run at a NCAA title.
With the conclusion of the 2017-2018 campaign, the Crimson says goodbye to seven seniors. Members of the Class of 2018 sported the emphatic “H” across their chests during a very transformative span of seasons for the program. Over the course of these four years, the outgoing group racked up 83 wins and reached the NCAA Tournament three times.
A 15-14-4 record may not suggest a glorious swan song for the seniors, but the season was historic in its own way. The program’s first-ever trio of captains guided Harvard through a grueling schedule featuring formidable road opponents and dramatic, back-and-forth tilts.
Of the seven players set to walk the stage in May, three will hang up the skates for now to pursue corporate professional careers. One is still deciding between professional hockey and the business lifestyle, and three are already navigating full-time professional schedules in the American Hockey League, the minor-league affiliate of the National Hockey League.
Here’s a glimpse at what each member of the class of 2018 is doing in his life beyond Harvard hockey:
The Crimson’s backbone between the pipes and tri-captain this season, Merrick Madsen inked a professional contract with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes organization mere days after Harvard’s season ended at the hands of Clarkson.
The goaltender was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers before the team traded his rights to Arizona last summer. Madsen is currently honing his game with the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners, and will embark on his first full professional season in October.
“It’s surreal, honestly,” said Madsen in late-March, waiting at the airport for his flight to Phoenix just hours after the contract announcement. “It feels like the culmination of everything, at least hockey-wise, that I’ve worked toward. It took so many people along the way, whether it’s family, teammates, friends, teachers.”
Madsen’s decorated career for the Crimson includes program records for consecutive victories (16) and wins in a single season (28), both achieved during his junior campaign when the team reached its first Frozen Four in 23 years. And the Acton, Calif., native was no small part in Harvard’s deep playoff run, putting forth a stellar body of work (28-6-2, 2.11 GAA, .923 SV%) as a third-year.
As a senior, Madsen faced pressure from junior backup Michael Lackey—the likely starter for next year’s squad—but still finished the season in the nation’s top 20 for goals against average and save percentage. The 6’5” Statistics major will graduate as the third-winningest goaltender in program history with 56 victories.
Jake Horton, a perennial influence in the locker room, donned the coveted “C” alongside Madsen and fellow senior Eddie Ellis this season. Throughout his time with the Crimson, Horton embodied the ideals of grit and perseverance, never missing a game in his collegiate career. It’s no surprise that the Oakdale, Minn., native walks away from the Bright-Landry Hockey Center as the program’s all-time leader in games played (140).
Leading up to his final season at Harvard and hoping to once again reach the Frozen Four, Horton quit his summer internship, adopted a rigorous training regimen, and gave hockey an even larger chunk of his attention. Overall, the centerman’s positive relationship with the game propelled him to look to the pros after the Crimson’s season ended.
“Winning a lot in hockey does something for you,” Horton noted. “Being around last year made me realize how much I loved the game still…. That goes hand-in-hand with me wanting to play after [college], knowing that I wanted to take a stab at pro hockey.”
Less than a week after Madsen’s pro signing, Horton announced that he had inked a deal with the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL, another affiliate of the NHL. After debuting with the Monarchs, the former Harvard tri-captain was called up to the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds on a professional tryout basis. Horton has played five games with the Thunderbirds to date.
Of the seven outgoing seniors, lockdown defenseman Wiley Sherman is the third and final player to have already announced his professional aspirations. A day after Madsen boarded a flight to Arizona, Sherman inked a deal with the AHL’s Providence Bruins and has since debuted for them.
Like his fellow pro-bound classmates, Sherman intends to complete his academic obligations while kicking off his career in the AHL.
Throughout Sherman’s time at Harvard, the 6’7” blue-liner’s willingness to play an oft-overlooked defensive style helped protect Madsen’s cage and set an example of discipline and commitment to the team’s systems. Sherman’s career plus-43 rating is evidence of his responsible play on the ice.
The Greenwich, Conn., native has also played the role of mentor over the last two seasons. In the majority of the Crimson’s contests since late-2016, Sherman has skated alongside now-sophomore John Marino to comprise the team’s shut-down defensive pairing. With Marino entering his junior year and Sherman on his way out, the squad will look to Marino even more for both leadership and on-ice performance.
“John and I were usually matched with their top line,” Sherman said. “Our one job was to shut them down [and] prevent them from scoring. That’s a role that…I’ve been trying to work on and fill in the past four years.”
Power forward Eddie Ellis rounded out the historic trio of captains that guided Harvard this season. While Ellis was not much of a scorer for the Crimson (94 career GP, 4–5—9), the Phillips Academy product’s career—one which prioritized the team—is most aptly summarized by one of his fondest memories from his experience with the program.
“When we won the ECAC Tournament my freshman year,” Ellis began, “I separated my shoulder and I had to get undressed for the third period. But the guys ended up winning it, so I remember going onto the ice with my arm in a sling, and my roommate and teammate Seb Lloyd had separated his shoulder in the previous game. And I just remember using our single arms together to hold up the trophy…. [That] sort of summed up the sacrifice that goes into those tournaments at the end of the year.”
In spite of cherished stories like this one, Ellis is putting his hockey life on hold as he pursues a consulting opportunity in Boston. Luckily, the close proximity of his future workplace to the Bright means Ellis can frequent the team’s home games next season and beyond.
Because the Burlington, Mass., native lives with Madsen and Sherman, he has been able to stay in touch with them as they navigate their professional lives.
Winger Seb Lloyd is the only member of the class of 2018 who is still on the fence about his future. With multiple job offers in hand, the only Canadian in the outgoing group is still flirting with the possibility of playing professionally in Europe—plenty of Harvard alumni, most recently defenseman Clay Anderson ’17 and forward Dev Tringale ’17, have chosen this option.
Lloyd plans to decide on his immediate future within the next month or so.
“I’ve talked to all the guys that played here at Harvard who have gone that route,” Lloyd said. “I’ve picked their brains about it and asked how their experience was. I look at it as: I do have my whole life to work, and you only get one chance to go and get some life experience and go play professionally.”
Lloyd, who missed time in multiple seasons due to injury including the shoulder separation that Ellis remembers so fondly, dressed for 98 bouts during his college career and logged 34 points in the process (15–19—34).
His final collegiate goal came in dramatic fashion: a one-timer from in-close knocked off then-No. 19 Boston College in the Beanpot consolation game.
Defenseman Thomas Aiken has a slightly different perspective after four years with the Harvard hockey program. The Whitefish Bay, Wis., native initially walked onto the team and skated in just 13 games over his four seasons, failing to log a point.
Nevertheless, Aiken impacted the team with his attitude, work ethic, and academic prowess—the undersized blue-liner has received ECAC All-Academic honors in each of the last three seasons (award given after spring semester ends).
As such, Aiken will venture away from the ice in pursuit of a professional future. Like some of his teammates, the senior will also head into the consulting industry, starting at Bain & Company in August.
“[It will] probably be a lot of hard work, but it should be pretty fun,” Aiken said. “Excited to be staying close enough to the Bright to come catch a few games next year.”
Ryan Begoon will remember his Harvard hockey career much in the way that Aiken will. The rearguard played in just a single game during his time with the Crimson, in which he notched his first and only NCAA point by assisting a Tyler Moy ’17 goal.
“For four years, there were ups and downs,” Begoon reflected. “The first year or two, [playing time] was definitely something that was very much on my radar—a goal to strive towards. It’s not that it wasn’t the last two years…but I did understand that I could be as impactful [but] in a different way.”
While some players focused primarily on their influence on the ice, Begoon made his mark in the weight room, around the rink, and in the classroom, too. Begoon and Aiken both played the role of unsung hero, in a sense, over their four seasons with the Harvard program.
Also like Aiken, Begoon will look to the corporate world for the future. The Economics major will return to the Blackstone Group after a successful summer internship last year and join the Strategic Partners team.
Regardless of what each senior ultimately does as a professional, the class of 2018 will surely carry with it into the “real world” the hard-working, team-oriented mentality that defined its Harvard career. And even though the seven fourth-years will never wear a Crimson jersey again, the class’s impact will be felt for years to come in the Harvard hockey program.
—Staff writer Spencer R. Morris can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMorrisTHC.