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Meet the men of Harvard hockey, top-ranked in the nation and intellectually mighty—at least for a bunch of pucks. On the bus to Canton, N.Y., for a Jan. 14 showdown with St. Lawrence, which held the No. 1 ranking at the time, egg-heads were everywhere. Freshman goal-tender Allain Roy brushed up on Hellenic myths. Junior defenseman Kevan Melrose wrestled with Paradise Lost. And as senior defenseman Scott Farden discussed new marketing strategies for his on-campus business—making and delivering goody packages ordered for students by their parents—some show-off in the middle of the bus prattled on about Jungian archetypes.
For such an erudite crowd, the Crimson's preparation for a formidable foe seemed, well, a little lowbrow. On the afternoon of the game, Brian Popiel, a junior defenseman and mild-mannered sociology major, was rudely awakened from a nap by Melrose. A self-described "wing-nut kind of guy," Melrose decided that the best way to psych himself up for St. Lawrence would be to bludgeon the snoozing Popiel with a stale turkey sandwich in a plastic bag.
Not that Harvard's players have a monopoly on strange pregame rituals. Take the obligatory cough-drop exchange between coach Bill Cleary and associate coach Ronn Tomassoni. A few minutes before each game, they meet at the middle of the bench and have the following conversation:
Cleary: "Want a cough drop, coach?"
Tomassoni: "Thanks, coach. You want one?"
Each takes a cough drop. Then, and only then, are they ready for the game to begin. They have different-colored cough drops for home and away games, of course.
Guess what, friends, this stuff works. The Crimson, which at week's end was 15-0, cruised past the Saints 5-1 as Harvard's other freshman goaltender, Charlie Brown look-alike Chuckie Hughes, turned away 27 of 28 shots. Hughes and Roy form what is likely the country's best freshman tandem of net minders.
" Harvard has the best college team I've seen since 1985 [ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute won the NCAA title that year]," said St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh, whose Saints lost in overtime to Lake Superior State University in the finals of last season's NCAA tournament. "And Lane MacDonald has got my vote for the Hobey Baker [college hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy]."
Indeed, stunning length-of-the-ice rushes by MacDonald, a senior left wing, made the outlook grim for St. Lawrence, even while the game was a scoreless tie. Four minutes into the first period he gathered in a loose puck in his own end and, with a burst of world-class speed, took off up the left side. Within three seconds he was all alone on St. Lawrence goalie Les Kuntar, who made a terrific kick save.
Rather than cheer the save, the crowd—never mind the Saints—seemed demoralized. Could MacDonald do that every time? To make matters worse, the Harvard Hares, a small contingent of Crimson undergrads outfitted in fuzzy masks and rabbit ears, outshouted the nearly 4,000 Saints fans.