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When the Harvard men’s ice hockey team returned to the ice for its first post-pandemic season in the fall of 2021, the team was defined by youth and potential. With the arrival of top recruits in forwards Matt Coronato, Sean Farrell, Alex Laferriere, and Zakary Karpa and defensemen Ian Moore and Jack Bar, the squad was brimming with potential and inexperience.
This fall, after two strong seasons led in part by that core, the Crimson finds itself back where it started in 2021. With a number of key NHL departures after last season, Harvard is again a team full of young talent and potential but lacking college hockey experience.
“Definitely pretty obvious we're young, but that shows that we got a lot of room to grow and get better as a group,” said junior captain and defenseman Ian Moore. “Up and down the lineup, we are young, but we got the kind of mentality that we can grow each day and keep getting better quickly, and kind of grow together. So that's what we're focusing on now.”
Harvard put together an excellent season last year, making it to the Beanpot title game and defeating archrival Cornell twice. The Crimson earned an at-large berth in the 2023 NCAA Tournament despite failing to win the ECAC Tournament, but Harvard’s journey in the tournament ended abruptly after an 8-1 beatdown by the Ohio State Buckeyes.
“There's a lot of good teams in college hockey, and I think by the time you get to the tournament, each game you have the potential to end up on either side of it,” head coach Ted Donato said. “I think for us it was a disappointing ending, but I think the tougher part of it is not really playing the way we could have played to at least make the game much more competitive.”
After the loss to the Buckeyes, many of the Crimson’s top players moved on to the NHL. While seniors Henry Thrun, John Farinacci, and Mitchell Gibson were expected departures, Farrell, Coronato, and Laferriere all left school early to join the NHL clubs that drafted them, leaving holes throughout the lineup, especially at forward. Despite the void left by the team’s departed stars, Donato has been very impressed with his team’s mindset in the preseason.
“The one thing I would say that I've been impressed with is just the overall attitude around the team, I think it's been really positive,” Donato said. “I give the captains and the juniors and seniors a lot of credit for that. I feel like the perspective, the work ethic, the compete level, has been really positive.”
To mitigate the personnel losses, Donato has brought in a talented recruiting class with NHL draft pedigree and junior league experience that will challenge for immediate ice time.
Forward Ben MacDonald, a Boston-area native and the son of Hobey Baker winner and 1989 national champion Lane MacDonald ’89, is a draft pick of the Seattle Kraken who spent last season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). Forward Michael Callow, selected by the Anaheim Ducks, spent last season in the United States Hockey League (USHL) after attending St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, Mass.
Joining MacDonald and Callow at forward are New Jersey natives Salvatore Guzzo and Ryan Fine. Guzzo and Fine both attended Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey before spending last season with the United States National Team Development Program in the USHL. Both won gold medals with Team USA at the 2023 IIHF U18 World Championships, and they each earned spots in the 2023 Biosteel All-American Game. Rounding out the forward group is Cam Johnson, a Vancouver native with experience in both the BCHL and USHL.
On defense, the new recruiting class includes BCHL alum David Hejduk, the twin brother of sophomore forward Marek Hejduk. Also joining the Crimson defense corps is Matthew Morden, a draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes with experience at the 2022 IIHF U18 World Championship and in the USHL. Morden is an alum of St. Andrew’s College in Ontario, the alma mater of junior defenseman Jack Bar.
Moore and his co-captain, junior forward Zakary Karpa, learned a lot from the leadership of the team’s upperclassmen during their first year on campus, and they recognize the importance of being a role model to their younger teammates.
“Our freshman year we had a great group of seniors and juniors that kind of set a good example so that us young guys could come in and make a good impact as a freshman,” Karpa said. “I think that kind of came together later in the year, winning the ECAC playoffs and the Ivy so hopefully we can try to do that for our younger guys too.”
With spots to fill in the lineup, the task falls not only on incoming recruits, but on young players from last year’s group taking a step up. At forward, sophomore Joe Miller, last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year, is primed to step up and build on his total of 15 goals from last season. Marek Hejduk also finished last season strong with nine points in his final 12 games, and he will look to continue his growth in an expanded role this year.
“We're going to need to be a little bit more team driven as far as offense,” Donato said. “Guys like Joe Miller and [Alex] Gaffney have proven to be goal scorers in the past, but everybody else is, in some ways, trying to do something for the first time, so with that usually comes some ups and downs.”
On defense, sophomores Ryan Healey and Mason Langenbrunner will have an opportunity to fill some of the void left by Thrun and Ryan Siedem, though Moore and Bar may have the first crack at top-pair minutes. In net, Donato will ride both senior Derek Mullahy and sophomore Aku Koskenvuo to begin the season without naming a specific starter.
“I think both guys have the confidence of their teammates. I thought both guys played well at our scrimmage against Lowell,” Donato said regarding his goalie tandem. “Derek certainly has a little bit more experience, but I'm very optimistic that we'll get excellent goaltending.”
Harvard’s 2023-2024 campaign begins with five straight ECAC games, including a home game against No. 5 Quinnipiac and a road trip to face No. 12 Cornell. The squad will face two top non-conference opponents the weekend after Thanksgiving with home games against No. 19 UMass and No. 3 Boston College, before wrapping up 2023 with three ECAC games and a trip to face UConn.
The Crimson will begin 2024 with a trip to the Desert Hockey Classic in Tempe, Ariz., and it will then face seven ECAC opponents in a row, including Quinnipiac and Cornell. After the Beanpot games on February 5th and February 12th (Harvard will play Northeastern in the semifinals), the Crimson will conclude their schedule with its final six ECAC matchups, wrapping up on March 2nd at home against Brown.
After a long preseason and one exhibition game against UMass Lowell, the squad is finally ready for its first regular season game.
“It's been a lot of fun. We're working hard. We're putting in some structure here the past couple of weeks,” Moore said. “It's fun to get to play another team in Lowell for once so we're super excited to get to play this weekend. Can't wait to play another team. So we're really looking forward to it.”
Harvard’s season begins on Friday, October 27th on the road against the Dartmouth Big Green. Its first home game will be on Friday, November 3rd against the Princeton Tigers.
–Staff writer Bridget Sands can be reached at email@example.com
–Staff writer Aaron Shuchman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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