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Brothers dominate landscape for Harvard, Dartmouth

by Bob Snow /
The 186th meeting between Harvard and Dartmouth kicked off their 2009-10 season Friday night in Hanover, N.H.

Since that century-old rivalry began and the formal beginning of Division I play in 1948, there have been thousands of hockey games. Not one, however, can match the unofficial records established in Dartmouth's Thompson Arena that night.

Along the Crimson and Big Green rosters? Enough brother combinations for a starting nine on a baseball diamond.

Talk about sibling revelry and rivalry.

Harvard sported the Biega brothers: Senior captain Alex, junior Michael, and freshman Danny.

Dartmouth listed three pairs of brothers: Senior assistant captain Joe Gaudet and sophomore Jim from nearby Etna, N.H.; Connor and Mark Goggin (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), and Dustin and Nick Walsh (Shannonville, Ont.).

Last season, the Gaudets matched Wisconsin's Johnson family, in which "Badger" Bob Johnson coached two of his sons at the same time for one season in the mid-1980s. Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet and his boys began a second season together, that night against Harvard.

For Peggy and Peter Biega, who call Montreal home, Friday also marked the first time their three sons shared the same frozen sheet for an official game.

"Alex could have gone anywhere he wanted," said Peter Biega of his son, a 2006 Buffalo Sabres draft pick, "but he had that taste for Harvard. He was focused. Mike saw that, then Danny. Alex paved the way. I'm glad things worked out.

"It was a strategy that was put in place -- a game plan -- from the time they were 15 or 16. As we know, in Quebec, there are many routes to go. We decided that going the U.S. college route was the best for the boys. And how do you top Harvard for the education?"

"We take a step back and realize it is a dream come true," Alex said after Harvard's 5-3 win (Mike Biega had 2 assists.) "Give credit where credit is due; my parents have been there for us since we were 6 years old -- in the backyard in Montreal making rinks and getting us to practice early mornings."

How does the Harvard defenseman and captain think the three brothers will handle the ups and downs of the experience?

"Keeping the integrity intact," said Alex. "The culture we have is that the individual stuff like points and playing time doesn't make any difference. It's only the end result of winning the game that makes any difference."

" It's special, really; adding brothers to a team is a nice option," said Crimson coach Ted Donato. "Tonight is extra special because there are so many brothers on the ice.

"You hope their chemistry and camaraderie filters throughout the team, that they can accomplish something great together -- a league title or Beanpot or national championship."

There have been three brothers on previous D-I teams at once: the DeMarcos at Michigan State in the late 1960s; David, Doug and Rob Ferguson on the 1967 Big Red national championship squad; the Wilsons -- Ron, Brad and Randy -- at Providence College in 1976-77, and Dominic, Steve and Mark Moore at Harvard a decade back.

And just last year, Cornell had three sets of brothers: Mike and Joe Devin, Riley and Brendon Nash, and Michael and Patrick Kennedy.

Information, however, from across the six leagues shows that no two D-I teams ever reached nine brothers on two rosters in the same game. 

This season, the brother combos dot the D-I landscape beyond Harvard and Dartmouth: West Point has two sets of brothers -- Joe and Chris Spracklen, and Jay and John Clark. Tom and Steve Mele are at American International College; Kyle and Shawn Ostrow are at Denver, and Niagara has Paul and Marc Zanette.

For 13th year Big Green coach Bob Gaudet and sons Joe and Jim, there are additional challenges to make the coaching-dad and player-sons scenario work.

"My wife and I as Dartmouth grads almost went the other way," said Bob Gaudet. "Try not to push that at all. It did surprise me that Joey chose to come to Dartmouth. The boys are very close, best of friends, so Jimmy followed his brother. 

"The toughest part is the dad-coach thing. It's treating them like they are just one of the boys. I'm lucky because they're both smart with good work ethics and no big egos. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to do this."

Senior assistant captain Joe agrees. "It's still nerve-wracking playing for your dad," he said after scoring Dartmouth's third goal. "But at the same time you know him and it does ease the adjustments as we all go along. The hardest part for me is to listen to him as a coach. The first impression can be, 'Well, dad said it, so shake it off,' and not really listen. But as I've gotten older, I take things he says more objectively and take him to heart."

What's the diversion?

"At home, we go fishing," said Joe. "I used to be the better (bass) fisherman, but he's catching up on me."

"And our daughter," said Bob, "plays high school goal, so we get away from Dartmouth hockey talk and focus on her."

What do the Gaudets most hope for this season?

"I hope we have a good year to finish it off," said Joe. "It will probably be my last year of hockey. It's been a lot of fun."

"Last year was the first time I ever had my dad coach me," said Jimmy, a sophomore. "It's a challenge being home, treating him like my father, and then at the rink as a coach. I want to have a really good last year with my brother. The next two years it's just me."

Peter Biega summed up the experience of his three sons -- and likely the sentiments across most brother combinations at any level from a parent's perspective.

"It's quite a thrill," he said. "It looks like it will be that way for a whole year before they start to split up and go in different directions. They'll remember this year for the rest of their life; suiting up to achieve a common objective. Go as far as possible."

Kessel cooled on home turf --  New Hampshire sophomore defenseman and 2007 Islanders draft pick Blake Kessel went home last weekend for two games on his home turf against Wisconsin. The younger brother of the Leafs' Phil Kessel is on a tear.

Entering last weekend, he was among the nation's leading scorers with 3-7-10 after five games, and tops among all defensemen. The Badgers, however, dealt a double bashing to the Wildcats, 6-1 and 4-1, while blanking Kessel on the score sheet. Kessel dropped to a tie for seventh in scoring, while retaining his top spot among defenseman.

"He puts up not only points, but handles the puck very well," said coach Dick Umile.

On Campus Clips --  The Merrimack Warriors entered last weekend with a 4-0 home start -- the best since the team joined Hockey East in 1989. The streak was extended Sunday with a 5-3 win against BC. ... All six Ivy teams kicked off their season last weekend. (Ivy rules prohibit league play until Nov. 1.) In addition to Harvard-Dartmouth, Cornell took out Niagara, 3-1; Princeton edged Brown, 1-0; and Saturday, Yale beat Princeton, 5-2. ... Junior Marc Cheverie broke the Denver University all-time shutout minutes streak last weekend. Cheverie's streak of 223:51 eclipsed Peter Mannino's school record of 208:42 set in 2005. ... League Players of the Month for October include senior defenseman Dan Ringwald at RIT in Atlantic Hockey, junior forward James Marcou at Massachusetts in Hockey East, and sophomore goaltender Scott Greenham at Alaska-Fairbanks in the CCHA. ... Goalie of the Month in Atlantic is Holy Cross' Thomas Tysowsky, and sophomore Alex Boudry at Providence in Hockey East. ... Rookies of the Month include American International College forward Adam Pleskach in Atlantic, MSU forward Derek Grant in the CCHA and Merrimack forward Stephane Da Costa in Hockey East. ... Key games this weekend include Miami at Michigan, UMass-Lowell at Vermont, Minnesota at Wisconsin, and Harvard at Cornell.

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