Rarely does a team a mere 30 seconds away from entering this season as three-time defending tournament champion have a change in leadership, but that’s exactly the kind of adjustment before the Harvard Crimson.
Mark Mazzoleni’s return to Green Bay opened the door for the Crimson to bring former player Ted Donato back into the fold. The novice coach will look to continue the program’s successful momentum, while also avoiding the controversy that plagued the Mazzoleni era.
“I need to get used to coaching, in general,” explained the former NHL forward who has not coached at any level, “understanding the intricacies with students’ attempts to balance a Division I hockey schedule with a great academic agenda.”
Donato would know from experience. But hasn’t the life of a student-athlete changed since his days in a Crimson uniform?
“Certainly, there have been some changes,” he replied. “But at the end of the day, there are a lot more similarities. It’s still the game of hockey and there are many fundamentals that need you need to be cognizant of.”
In addition to the change behind the bench, the on-ice leadership has gone through alterations as well.
Graduated are eight players many of whom played a significant role in Harvard’s resurrection. Gone are Tim Pettit and Tyler Kolarik. Not to mention Dennis Packard and Kenny Smith.
In is a new set of go-to guys, including leading scorer and, arguably, the league’s best center, Tom Cavanagh. Senior Brendan Bernakevitch, one of four Crimson players to notch 30 or more points last season, is also back. And look for sophomores Kevin Du and Steve Mandes to make more of a consistent impact. On defense, there’s also the one-two punch of team captain Noah Welch and defensive stalwart Ryan Lannon.
“I’m excited about our potential as a group,” said Donato. “I also recognize that we have a lot of ground to cover early on with new staff and a lot of new faces. We will be challenged.”
Donato, like his colleagues around the country, will look to his rookies for an added boost.
“I’m very excited,” he said, “about the feedback we received about our incoming freshman class. I have not seen much of them, but I know we have players that will make an impact.”
Of those newcomers, Harvard welcomes four blueliners, including 6-foot-4 defenseman Dave Watters, and five forwards, four of whom are 5-foot-10 or smaller.
The Crimson open the season on October 29 at Brown.