Harvard’s Biega flashes offensive skill without sacrificing defense

By Richard Murray

Danny Biega - Harvard University

Photo: Harvard University defenseman and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Danny Biega appears to be developing into a solid, all-around defender (courtesy of Rich Barnes/Icon SMI)

After a slow start to his collegiate career, Harvard’s Danny Biega has emerged as one of the top power-play quarterbacks and offensive weapons on a collegiate blueline.

Biega, a senior and captain of the Crimson, had only nine points during his freshman campaign, but in his sophomore and junior seasons, the defenseman racked up 65 points in 68 games.

“As a freshman you don’t always have a ton of opportunities compared to your sophomore, junior, and senior years, so it is a hierarchy thing at times,” Biega said. “[Being eased in] has allowed me to progress, get more points, and also get more playing time, though. My power-play time has been pretty successful, and that really helped my point totals.”

Last season, the Montreal, Québec native and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick helped lead the Crimson power-play to the top ranks of NCAA Division 1 hockey. Harvard had a 27.3 percent success rate, which ranked number one in the nation.

“Danny was a big part of our power-play’s success last season,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. 

“Danny has a great release on his snapshot, and he wins a lot of battles for the puck. He is excellent at keeping the puck in at the blueline, and he just does a lot of things well on the power-play. We hope is he going to be a big part of our [continued] power-play success this season.”

Playing the power-play can be an honor for many players because it allows them to show off their skill set. For Biega, that might be part of it, but for him, he simply enjoys being out on the power-play.

“I enjoy playing on the power-play because it is a fun opportunity, and it is [also] different than playing five-on-five,” Biega said.

“On the power-play, you have the puck most of the time, and you can create a lot of offensive opportunities. For me personally, I like to move the puck up, and there isn’t a better feeling when you or your team score a power-play goal.”

Although Biega may excel in the offensive zone, he is far from a slouch defensively. Harvard relies on him in many different roles, which includes killing penalties and shutting down the opposition's scoring lines. Biega was also named ECAC Hockey's Best Defensive Defenseman last season.

“Danny plays big minutes for us, and he is tremendously strong,” Donato said.

“He wins a lot of puck battles, which really helps in five-on-five situations. In general, he is consistent night in and night out as he continues to be an impact player at both ends of the ice. He doesn’t change his game to find his offense, and I think that is a sign of a great player.”

Biega’s effort and success have not gone unnoticed by the hockey brass at Harvard and in the ECAC. In addition to being named the Top Defensive Defenseman in ECAC hockey last season, Biega was the runner-up for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year for the 2011-12 season. In his sophomore season, Biega took home the John Tudor Memorial Cup as Harvard’s MVP, leading the team in scoring with 30 points and assists with 19. 

“Any player wants to see their efforts and sacrifices rewarded,” Donato said of Biega’s various awards. “Sometimes players get rewarded for just their [offensive] numbers, but I think there is even more to the numbers with him because we use him in both top offensive and defensive situations.”

It was no coincidence that Danny Biega ended up playing for coach Donato at Harvard, as both of his brothers also played hockey for the Crimson. His brother Alex Biega is a Buffalo Sabres draft pick who is currently playing in the AHL for the Rochester Americans. His other brother, Mike Biega, has retired from hockey and is pursuing a career in pharmaceutical sales. Although the brothers had the option to play major juniors in Canada, their parents pushed the college game for the importance of education.

“Our parents were very strong advocates for school, and they strongly believed in education,” stated Biega. “We didn’t know much about the college game [growing up], but our parents took the time to research it a bit.”

Biega has come a long way since his freshman season, but his best hockey is still yet to come. The coaching staff at Harvard strongly believes he is in the making to be a solid, NHL-caliber player.

“Danny has the attributes and the compete level to be successful at the NHL level, and we are excited to see what his future has in store,” Donato said.

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