Two days after the Crimson’s season ended in an NCAA Tournament regional semifinal, all three guys — each one being an NHL draft pick — decided to leave college early and sign professional contracts.
They didn’t know if playing college hockey was going to be the last time they would ever be on the ice together.
However, when the USA Hockey brass was picking its national team to compete in this year’s IIHF Men’s World Championship, Thrun, Farrell and Coronato all made the cut.
The trio was reunited.
“When I heard the news that they were both coming as well, I got even more excited for the trip than I already was,” said Thrun, who is a defenseman for the San Jose Sharks. “To be able to play a couple years with them at Harvard and then sort of wrap it up with playing in Men’s World Championship with them is kind of a full circle moment. It’s pretty special and I think we all really appreciate it.”
“They’re two of my really close friends, so I think this experience on its own is unbelievable, but getting to do it with two guys that you know so well just makes it that much better,” said Coronato, who plays for the Calgary Flames after the team drafted him in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft. “It’s kind of our last time playing with each other here, so we’re really enjoying the time together.”
The trio played together at Harvard for two seasons and helped the Crimson earn 24 wins during the 2022-23 season, which was the second-most wins for the program since 1989.
Their bond on the ice is special. At the start of the world championship, Farrell and Coronato, both forwards, were on different lines. However, by the time the U.S. took on Finland on May 12, Farrell and Coronato were assigned to the same line. Their chemistry on the ice is evident.
“I think we’ve been finding ways to make some plays and do little things like that, but I’ve played with him for the last four years and we’re really comfortable together,” Coronato said. “It’s definitely a new level and a new team for both of us, but we have that sense of feeling comfortable when we’re together.”
There have also been several times throughout the tournament that all three players have been on the ice at once. Thrun generally knows exactly where to find his former college teammates during any type of sequence.
“I know their games pretty well, so I know when they’re out there — certain looks that they’re going to make or certain plays that I can get involved with them,” Thrun said. “I think having a handful of games with them prior from Harvard gives me the prior knowledge to always know where they’re going to be. There’s a little bit of an advantage when we’re out there together.”
Farrell, who plays for the Montreal Canadiens, shared that sentiment as well.
“I feel like definitely familiarity with those guys when we’re playing together,” he said. “Matt and I have been playing together now for four years, on the same line for most of that time. I think being on the same line helps a lot, helps kind of get chemistry going a lot quicker in these tournaments. Same with Henry, when I’m on the ice with him I kind of know where he’s going to be at and know that he’s going to get us the puck when he can.”
Prior to their two years playing together at Harvard, Farrell and Coronato spent a pair of seasons with the Chicago Steel in the United States Hockey League.
Growing up in towns 10 minutes apart in Eastern Massachusetts, Thrun and Farrell were paired together for hockey at almost every step of the way. Even though Thrun is one year older than Farrell, the two played on the same youth teams, with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program for two seasons and then Harvard. They’ve essentially been on the same team all but two of the last 16 years.
“It’s been awesome,” Farrell said. “I feel like he’s been a guy I’ve been able to rely on in all steps of the process and he’s had to make similar decisions at similar points in our career, so I think we could kind of lean on each other for those. I think it always helps having someone who competes with you every day. We work out and skate together in the summers, too. He’s an awesome guy and someone that we’ve been close for a very long time now and we spend a ton of time together.”
When the three guys hang out, Coronato can easily tell how the tight bond is shared by Thrun and Farrell.
“They definitely know each other well, they know each other’s games,” Coronato said. “I think off the ice is more where I look at the two of them. They’re about as close as you can get in terms of doing stuff together at all times growing up. I’m really close with both of them, but I’m sure it’s been really fun for them to do this.”
When most people think of Harvard, hockey probably isn’t the top thing that pops into their minds.
But after reaching the NCAA Tournament six times in the last seven seasons and 27 appearances overall, the Crimson have become one of the most consistent programs in the country.
The perception of Harvard as just a top-notch academic institution could be changing to include a national title contender for its men’s hockey program.
“Obviously, there’s been sort of a resurgence of the program in the past 10 years … with guys coming through the program and establishing and turning it into what it is today,” Thrun said. “It’s a huge credit to coach [Ted] Donato and sort of the success that he’s had both with individual players and the teams as a whole. I think it’s a good recognition for people to see that Harvard can put players on the national team like this.”
Having three Harvard players on the U.S. Men’s National Team roster ties it with Boston College and the University of Notre Dame as the second-most represented college on the team. Boston University has four players.
“I feel like over the past several years Harvard’s been producing a ton of good players and bringing in a lot of good players to the program,” Farrell said. “I think that will continue to happen with how good the school is and how good the hockey program is. It’s great for us to be able to represent Harvard on the international stage.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.