AMHERST, Mass. — It’s tough to write about sometimes, because you feel for the kids. After all, it is just a game, but sometimes, it can be a little more. It’s life, especially for seniors. Especially for the Harvard seniors.
Because for four straight years Harvard has gone to the NCAA tournament, and four times the last period has beaten the Crimson, and in turn the Crimson seniors.
Four years ago, it was Maine which defeated Harvard in overtime to send the Crimson home. The next year, the Crimson thought things could get better, and went into the third period tied with Boston University, 3-3. But the Crimson allowed three goals in the third and lost 6-4.
Last year the Crimson had a 4-1 lead in the third period over Maine. But once again, the opponent rallied, and four Black Bear goals later, the Crimson were sent home after the first round once again.
This season, there was optimism that perhaps with a change in systems, with a new head coach, that something different could happen for this senior class.
“That was the question of the week,” said senior captain Noah Welch.
“I’ve been asked that all week,” said head coach Ted Donato. “Going into the season, we knew that all of us were comfortable with not just the 20 guys on the ice, but with any 20 guys on the ice.”
Midway through 2004-05, thoughts of a different ending were there. The Crimson had defeated Boston College, Boston University and Maine in nonconference action. The Crimson were off to a great start, with a few hurdles cleared, or perhaps demons that Harvard was exorcising.
Then the Beanpot came. Two losses later the Crimson players were shaking their heads, wondering if they had indeed exorcised the demons.
As the rest of the regular season went by, Harvard was in the thick of it in the ECACHL again. The Crimson finished second in the ECACHL in the regular season and the tournament, both times to Cornell. And last Sunday, Harvard was seeded to play in the East once again in the NCAAs.
It was another chance, especially for the seniors, to erase the disappointments of the past three years.
Saturday, the Crimson had the lead 1-0 through one period. The Crimson had the lead 2-1 through two periods. But once again, the Crimson allowed an opponent to tie it in the third, as Preston Callander scored for New Hampshire.
The demons were on their way back. Would they finish the job or would they be gone?
Daniel Winnik of New Hampshire answered that question when he tipped a pass through the legs of Harvard senior netminder Dov Grumet-Morris, giving the Wildcats the 3-2 overtime win.
Harvard, and its seniors, once again felt the pain.
“To be honest with you, I’m still in shock right now,” said Donato. “There’s going to be a delayed sadness coming about in a few days.”
“We left it out there,” said Welch. “I’m upset right now. Upset that my college career is over. … The game of hockey is a lot of swings. We had momentum for most of the game. We had no doubts going to overtime.”
“This senior group meant the world to me,” said Donato. “This was my first year coaching — this group, they will always be special to me.”
This senior class for Harvard went to four straight ECACHL championship games, winning two. They went to four straight NCAA tournaments, but felt the pain of the final period all four times. They won’t get another chance, but they can be comforted knowing that they gave it their all.
And come autumn, everyone else will get a chance to exorcise their demons.
“Every year you get a chance to write a new script,” said Donato. “We’d like to write a happy ending for ourselves.”