Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Harvard Men's Hockey Preview Part III: Positional Breakdown, continued

With the forwards previewed earlier this week, it's time to look at the Crimson's defensemen and goaltenders. Harvard returns four D-men who skated in 30+ games last season, so the Crimson defensive corps has a wealth of veteran experience to build on, as well as a couple freshmen who will be in the mix. After a jump you'll find a look at each defenseman with the Crimson and some possible pairings, as well as the Crimson's goaltending.

The 2009-10 Crimson's defensive efforts begin with senior captain Alex Biega. The skilled and aggressive defenseman has the most offensive ability of any of the Crimson's blueliners, and Biega registered 20 points last season, 12 more than any other Harvard defenseman. His game has become more physical and well-rounded as he's matured and grown into Ted Donato's system, and while he still loves to pinch in or jump up into the offensive zone, rarely does that aggressiveness result in an odd-man rush or breakaway. The elder Biega will most likely start the season paired with junior Chris Huxley, who last season flashed some offensive capabilities on the power play. Huxley is a physical defenseman and while he may struggle sometimes with speedier forwards, he is tough to get past in close quarters around the net or along the wall.  Another senior, Ian Tallett, will work with second-year man Ryan Grimshaw to begin the season. Tallett is a solid stay-at-home defenseman who generally makes smart and responsible defensive decisions. Grimshaw's game is still developing, and if he can add a puck-moving element to his game, the big sophomore could see a lot of ice time. Rounding out the top-six is a senior and a freshman - Chad Morin and Danny Biega. Morin has been a mainstay of the Crimson's defense since his freshman year, and while he had a quiet last season offensively, he's a capable passer who can set up a rush or a breakout up ice. The youngest of the brothers Biega is actually very young (he turned 18 in September), but his size, strength, and athleticism mean that he will be able to play and contribute right away. He's nearly as strong as Alex and Mike are at the moment, which is all the more impressive considering he's two and three years younger than his older brothers. While that may be the top six, head coach Ted Donato has several other viable options if injuries are an issue. Freshman Brendan Rempel is a well-regarded prospect out of the USNTDP, and he has a solid stay-at-home game similar to Tallett and Morin. Sophomore Peter Starrett is still developing, but he's a physical skater who will be in the mix this season. Fellow second-year defenseman Alex Leinberry took a reserve role last season, and with the added depth this season, will most likely have a similar role in 2009-10. The "X" factor along the blue line is senior Jack Christian, who did not play in 2008-09 for medical reasons. Christian was an outstanding defenseman his first three seasons, but how much he will play this year remains to be seen. Anything Christian can contribute is a bonus, given the Crimson's defensive depth and experience.

Last season was an uncertain one for the Crimson in net - with the unexpected absence of 2007-08 Dryden Award winner Kyle Richter, it fell to incoming freshman Matt Hoyle, Ryan Carroll, and John Riley to step into the crease. Hoyle had an up-and-down start to the year, and so Riley and Carroll both got shots in net as the Crimson beginning in January, and Carroll impressed enough to get the nod in net through the end of the season. Hoyle left Harvard after his freshman year to start for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, but Richter's return outweighs Hoyle's absence. So now the Crimson have depth and experience in net, but to as the season begins it will be Kyle Richter's job to lose. It would not be surprising though, as the Crimson's schedule gets busy, to see Carroll get the nod at points - his outstanding performance in February demonstrated that he is capable of winning hard-fought games.

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