Vesey, Criscuolo wrap up collegiate careers that helped bring Harvard back to prominence

Boston College defeated Harvard in the Northeast Regional semifinals (photo: Melissa Wade).

WORCESTER, Mass. — After losing to Boston College 4-1 in a NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal game Friday, Harvard senior co-captains Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo walked up to the press conference podium for the last time in their collegiate careers with four years’ worth of emotion built up in their downtrodden faces.

Fighting back tears, and with quivering yet poised responses, the duo — joined by coach Ted Donato and junior forward Luke Esposito — reflected on not only the game at hand, but their entire tenure with the program. It may be Vesey and Criscuolo’s final time wearing a Crimson jersey, but it’s clear their legacy will live on forever.

2016 NCAA Northeast Regional

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“It’s a very tough group of seniors that were very special to me — really great leaders and great human beings,” Donato said. “I feel very humbled and honored to have been able to coach this team this year.”

Vesey, Criscuolo and their fellow seniors worked hard on and off the ice during their time in Cambridge and made it their mission to bring Harvard hockey back to national prominence and develop a sense of community again on campus. Not only did they help end the Crimson’s drought from the big dance by making it to the NCAA tournament for two consecutive years (the first time since 2005-06), but they’re part of the reason why support and attendance at home games grew over the past few seasons.

“The program has accomplished a lot in the last two years and it’s only going to keep doing bigger and better things,” said Criscuolo, his voice cracking. “This game still hasn’t sank in, but I think we’re very happy with what we’ve accomplished; I think we thought we were going to have a better ending than this, though.”

Added Vesey in a confident tone while wiping away tears: “Anytime you play for a program, you want to leave the jersey in a better place, so to speak, and I think we made a great effort to try to do that. Harvard hockey is not going anywhere; if you look at the guys coming in next year and the guys coming back, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a national championship anytime soon.”

As one of the top players in the country, Vesey (who entered the tournament with more career goals — 80 — than any other player) is a Hobey Baker Award finalist, and Criscuolo carried a Hockey Humanitarian Award finalist title for his outstanding work as one of college hockey’s finest citizens. With their combined leadership, they set an example for others like Esposito to carry on.

“It’s a really emotional locker room right now for that reason — just how far these two guys and all of the senior class has brought the program,” said Esposito. “These two have taught me so much; I look up to them. There’s a reason they’re the captains and it’s not because they’re our best players, they’re our hardest workers on and off the ice. They really left the program in a better spot. We’ve just got to keep that momentum next year and follow in their footsteps.”