(Photo Courtesy of Harvard Athletics)
During the first year of the Gerry Byrne era, Harvard churned out a 2-2 record before things were shut down. That record included a season-opening win over a top-20 UMass squad and saw the Crimson suffer both of their losses by just one goal. Additionally, Harvard ended the shortened season averaging 11.75 goals per game (42nd in DI), and allowing an average of 11.25 goals per game (37th in DI). Both of those numbers were an improvement from where they were at that same time in 2019.
The improvements on the field during that shortened year one, as well as the momentum Byrne and his staff have continued to build off the field on the recruiting trail, have many feeling very optimistic about the future of this program, which has only made one NCAA Tournament trip (2014) in the past decade and one trip to the Ivy League tournament since then (2016).
While there were certainly some positives to take away from that shortened 2020 season, when the Crimson take the field for the first time this coming spring it will be their first time doing so in nearly two years. Due to that fact, it is very difficult to gauge just what the ceiling for this Harvard squad in 2022 could be despite the amount of talent they do return up and down the roster.
Offensively, the Crimson do return three of their top-five scorers, including senior attackman Austin Madronic. The British Columbia native has been an impact player since arriving in Cambridge and led the Crimson with 14 points (9G/5A) in 2020. Junior midfielders Nick Loring (5G/7A), and Isaiah Dawson (2G/1A) also return after being top-five scorers for Harvard during their last season.
In addition to the trio of Madronic, Loring, and Dawson, Harvard should see a number of younger players step up and be serious contributors on the offensive end of the field. The Crimson have brought in a number of highly-rated offensive weapons in both the 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes who could very well come in and be impact players right away for this Harvard offense,
At the faceoff dot, Harvard returns both Kyle Massimilian and Steven Cuccurullo. Massimilian served as their primary option at the dot during the 2020 season, going 31-for-53 (58%). Cuccurullo served as the Crimson’s backup, taking at least three faceoffs in each game and going 15-for-50 overall (30%). Returning both of their top options at the dot should not only help the Crimson gain an edge in the possession battle, but also could help this offense, especially the younger guys, progress quicker than expected.
Defense was the area where Harvard saw the greatest amount of growth during the 2020 season, and now coming into the 2022 season it is where they have the most amount of question marks.
Goalie Kyle Mullin is the only impact player on the defensive end from 2020 that the Crimson return. A two-year starter, Mullin anchored the defense with 59 saves and a .567% save percentage during that shortened 2020 season as the leader of a defense that was trending upwards. Mullin will now be tasked with leading and anchoring one of the most inexperienced defenses in not only the Ivy League, but nationally.
Junior defenseman Chase Strupp and LSM Ollie Hollo are the most experienced poles returning from that 2020 season, each seeing limited action as sophomores. The two juniors will likely be competing with a number of young poles for playing time this season, as the Crimson’s close defense could very well be one of their youngest in quite some time.
Despite the questions that surround this defensive unit coming into the 2022 season, the fact that the Crimson do return an experienced goalie such as Mullin and are led by a head coach who is also one of the best defensive minds in the game, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could see this defense continue to improve -even with as much youth as they might have.