Varsity Hockey takes Arizona.
As we stepped off our plane in Phoenix, AZ, all of us on the hockey team wondered exactly how we would meet the expectations surrounding us. We had traveled thousands of miles away from the hockey hotbed of New England to play against a new Division 1 program at Arizona State, and tackle our first two games of the regular season. How the outside world thought we would fare this year was surrounded by a host of questions throughout our pre-season. Most pointed to the fact that we had lost several key players to graduation – particularly Jimmy Vesey, now lining up for the New York Rangers. We nevertheless began the season with a Top 15 national ranking before a single game was played. However, if we wanted to maintain or improve upon this, we knew we needed more than just two close games in Arizona. We put these thoughts in the back of our minds the best we could and pushed on, trying to treat it as just a normal weekend of college hockey.
This would prove to be tougher than we expected. Whereas the average temperature in Cambridge hovered around a crisp and comfortable 50 in the last week, we walked out of the Phoenix airport to be engulfed by a suffocating 95-degree heat. Waiting for our bus, we found ourselves sweating through our brand new Harvard Hockey polos. As we made it over to the rink, and got on the ice for a quick practice Thursday night, we found that even the ice-cold rink was warmer than what we were used to. It was a strange experience for all involved. All we could do to combat the temperature was to hydrate ourselves the best we could, and prepare as best we could for the upcoming games.
On Friday night we played the first game of the season. We proved that Harvard kids accustomed to New England weather can take the Arizona heat through our 7-0 win. Perhaps it is telling that this score matches that of our explosive debut at Dartmouth last season. Though we began a little slower than we would have preferred, we eventually came to outplay the Sun Devils throughout the game, and ultimately matched or exceeded many of the expectations set for us. While we went in feeling confident, it was still quite the exclamation point, and we were excited with the hot start to the new season. The harder part of the weekend came in the next night’s follow-up game. In the second match, Arizona State came much harder, and even controlled the game for a short span in which they scored two goals. But we still managed to prevail with our offensive strength, and left the rink with a 6-2 victory.
All four of our forward lines found the back of the net over the course of the weekend. That detail demonstrates the depth we hope to have throughout this season, and puts to rest the question of whether we would field enough offensive output without some of last season’s stellar forwards. We also found defensive strength. Even though two of the six defensemen in the lineup were freshman, we emerged with a strong goals-against average of 1.0 on the weekend. While we can be happy with our first weekend as a team, it will be important for us to look forward to more challenging league games ahead of us. This weekend, as we trade hockey in the desert for its more familiar climes, we turn our gaze towards Colgate and Cornell – and the season ahead.
Merrick Madsen ([email protected]) is the goalie of the varsity hockey team.