For the second year in a row, a promising start was massively derailed by a midseason skid.
Following a 4-2-0 start to the year, the Crimson fell flat on their faces for the better part of a financial quarter as the Cambridge club hit a 1-12-4 wall across the end of 2008 and into ’09. The Beanpot Bounceback was in full effect, though, as the crew finished the regular season 4-0-2 following Boston’s annual February foursome.
The resurgence was not meant to be, however, as Brown stunned the Crimson at the Bright Hockey Center on consecutive evenings to terminate Harvard’s bipolar season.
One big problem was an utter lack of offense from coach Ted Donato’s forwards. Nobody achieved more than eight goals, only two players topped 20 points, and the first senior leader to show up on the scoring list was way down at No. 8, Nick Coskren. He tied junior Doug Rogers for the team lead with eight goals, but it was Rogers who took the scoring title with 21 points.
On the bright side, dynamic blue-liner Alex Biega registered 16 assists in his third year on the job, and 17 different players lit the lamp for the Crimson, including 11 who did so thrice or more.
In goal, rookie Matt Hoyle played the most minutes, but sophomore Ryan Carroll finished strong with a team-leading .933 save rate and a 2.31 goals against average.
Where will the offense come from this year? Just about everywhere, many Crimson observers predict.
“Alex Killorn and Michael Biega are poised and ready to have breakout years for us,” Donato said. “Matt McCollem is also poised to have a real breakthrough season. I think it’s going to be a very competitive lineup night-in and night-out, and there’s going to be potential there to be a little bigger and a little faster, and be a little bit more offensive than we’ve been over the last few years.”
From the incoming class, “[Alex] Fallstrom’s a guy I think is very very talented, and can come in and make an immediate impact for us. He had a great year for Shattuck-St. Mary’s last year as their leading scorer. Connor Morrison comes in, and I think he was second in points last year in the British Columbia league and in the top-five in goals. He played for Germany in the World Juniors last year. Marshall Everson had a tremendous career at Edina High School, and took the team deep in the state tournament the last few years so we’re excited about Marshall as well.”
The high expectations kept coming.
“David Valek is coming off playing very well for the U.S. Team in the Under-18 World Championships,” Donato said. “Brendan Rempel and Danny Biega will both come in and add some size and speed for us. Danny’s probably a little bit bigger than Alex, plays a little bit more physical, strong game; he plays a very strong game, moves the puck well. Maybe not as flashy offensively as Alex, but certainly very effective, and he’s a guy that has looked mature beyond his age for a few years. You can never be completely comfortable depending solely on freshmen, but I think we have guys that can come in and make an impact for us.”
And of course, a few words for blue-chipper Louis Leblanc, the 18th overall pick in this summer’s NHL draft.
“Louis comes in with a lot of accolades,” Donato said. “He had a very good season last year in the USHL, and is a determined, hard-working player that I think will push all our players with his level of work and skill. Our guys are excited about adding that kind of talent to our lineup. It’s always a challenge any time you move up a level to continue being a high-level player, but we have every confidence that Louis will be able to do that.”
Harvard lost some key cogs from recent successful campaigns.
“With Brian McCafferty we lost a real leader, and a guy that had played some tremendous hockey for us,” said the coach and Harvard alumnus. “Last year Brian was saddled with injuries and was never able to play to his high standards. Jimmy Fraser was very good for us all the way through, and really gave us the ability to defend against other teams’ top lines. We lost some leadership also, with guys like Steve Rolecek and Nicky Coskren, so we definitely lost some things with the guys going out, but we’ve added some things with the guys coming in.”
For the next few months, though, it’s all about what Donato has on hand.
“I think once again we’ll be very young, which isn’t much different from last year,” he said. “We have a big incoming class, and not a huge outgoing class. We’ll be young in the fact that we’ll only have one senior forward, and six seniors in total. We’ll be slightly on the young side, but I really like the steps we took in the latter half of the season last year. I felt Ryan Carroll stepped up and played some pretty good hockey for us, we return Kyle Richter, which I think everybody is excited about, and I think we’ve added some playmakers up front. I think it’s going to be an exciting year, I really do.
“We have a tough schedule to start off — we’re on the road for the first five games [all in league] — which is tough with a young team, with a team that didn’t win a game on the road last year, so that’s a challenge. But as we get our feet wet and get on the other side of the holidays, I really believe we’ll be a team that has got a chance to challenge.”
With Richter coming back after taking a year away from school, it could be an interesting battle for the Harvard starting gig.
“I don’t know if [Kyle] has any edge,” Donato said. “I think Ryan played very well at the end of the season, but Kyle’s also coming off being goalie of the year so I think we’ll just let it play out. I think we’re a lot more excited about the certainty of competition at that position [than we were last year].”
On the blue line, “I think the obvious strength is Alex Biega,” Donato said. “Even though he didn’t receive first-team honors last year, he was outstanding for us. He had a great summer and worked hard, and Alex will really provide us with some great leadership. I believe he’s one of the top players in the country, and he’s certainly the leader back there for us. We have guys like Ian Tallet and Chad Morin coming back for us, and Ryan Grimshaw, who had a tough year last year with injuries.
“We’re excited about the level of talent back there with guys like Brendan Rempel and Danny Biega coming in. We’re excited about what that group can be. It could be a bit of a learning curve for some of the younger guys, but we have a lot of reasons to think that it’s going to be a strength for our team. I think Chris [Huxley] made a step forward, he had some time on the power play for us … he had a good year. He handles the puck very well, he can move the puck; he’ll be in the mix for us.”