Harrington brings hard-hitting defense

Lou Raguse

Minnesota men’s hockey sophomore Chris Harrington said he used to be a St. Cloud State fan – for a couple years, anyway. He said he used to root for Denver and St. John’s as well, but that’s what happens when your dad is a college hockey coach.

Right now, Minnesota is the only team Harrington said he is concerned with.

And as one of the Gophers’ top defensive players, he said he hopes to increase his offensive production and continue his physical play as the team heads into the first round of WCHA playoffs against the Huskies this weekend.

“I just want to be as solid as I can on both sides of the ice,” Harrington said. “Playoffs are no time to take a lot of chances, but at the same time, I can’t change the style of play that’s worked for me in the past.”

Chris Harrington’s father, John Harrington, was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and currently coaches at St. John’s. But even though Chris Harrington received more coaching while growing up than the average hockey player, he developed his style of play on his own.

Chris Harrington has been a defenseman since his early years as a hockey player. He came home from playing one day, John Harrington said, and noted that the other kids didn’t know how to defend – so that’s what he said he wanted to do.

Now he is one of the most physical players for the Gophers.

“He hits more guys in a game than I would in one year,” said John Harrington, a former forward. “He is a good skater both forward and laterally, so that helps him in that position as well.”

But Chris Harrington said he still likes to play offensive-minded hockey, and teammate Keith Ballard boasts some of the nation’s best offensive statistics from the blue line with 11 goals and 20 assists.

Chris Harrington matches Ballard’s 20 assists, and has scored five goals this season, as he most often pairs with Ballard defensively and mans the point with him in the power play.

“We need Keith and Chris to really elevate themselves and be dominating night in and night out now,” coach Don Lucia said. “How far we go and how well we do in the playoffs, in many ways, will be determined by how they play.”

The two defensemen said they have gotten used to playing with each other – besides being teammates at Minnesota for the last two years, they have played together on all-star teams during summers and for the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League.

Their styles of play complement each other, and the two said they have grown accustomed to being together on the ice.

“We know what each other likes to do,” Ballard said. “It’s easy playing with someone you’re comfortable with.”

And Chris Harrington said he doesn’t mind taking tips from Ballard on the ice. Off the ice, he said he takes pointers from his father, whom he calls after every game.

Even Lucia sometimes defers to John Harrington.

“If I need to kick Chris in the rear end a little bit, it’s just as easy to call his dad and let him do it,” Lucia said. “Because he’ll do it louder and harder.”

This weekend, against one of the teams his father used to coach, Chris Harrington will have a chance to do some kicking of his own.

“I’m not going to go out there and tiptoe around,” Chris Harrington said. “One of the things I like to do is be a physical leader on the team.”