The Harvard women's hockey team, the preseason favorite to win the national championship, will end the semester with the No. 1 ranking thanks to a pair of victories over Cornell and St. Lawrence last weekend at
Bright Hockey Center.
The Crimson (13-2-2, 11-2-2 ECAC) blanked the Big Red on Friday, 5-0, and outlasted the Saints on Saturday, 6-3, to maintain a three-point lead over second-place Brown in the conference standings.
The top forward line of sophomore center Jen Botterill and junior wingers Tammy Shewchuk and Angie Francisco combined for 18 points in the two games.
Sophomore defenseman Angela Ruggiero added two goals and three assists and freshman winger Tracy Catlin also scored a goal. Junior center Kiirsten Suurkask and rookie defensemen Jamie Hagerman and Pam Van Reesema all contributed assists.
The Crimson returns to action Feb. 5 when it hosts No. 2 Northeastern at Bright to gear up for the Beanpot, which will take place at Bright on Feb. 8 and Feb. 15.
Harvard 6, St. Lawrence 3
"St. Lawrence is strong, they're crafty and they're a very strong team," said Harvard Coach Katey Stone. "We were careless at spots and this game highlighted some of our weaknesses, but when we're not playing well we still find a way to win."
The Saints trailed by one goal with a minute left in the third period and St. Lawrence Coach Paul Flanagan pulled goaltender Caryn Ungewitter to send six skaters at Harvard senior netminder Crystal Springer. With 38 seconds remaining, Ruggiero won the puck in the defensive zone and sent a tremendous slapshot over both bluelines into the empty net to ice the victory.
That avenged a 4-2 loss at St. Lawrence Nov. 27, when Ungewitter stopped 44 Harvard shots for the upset. During the loss, Shewchuk and Botterill were in Montreal playing for the Canadian National Team at the Three Nations Cup. In Saturday's victory, they combined for three goals and for assists.
"When somebody's missing it messes up all the lines and the whole week of practice," Shewchuk said. "The team that we're playing against is not seeing us as a full team. It was nice to show them what Harvard can do tonight."
Shewchuk gave the Crimson the lead for good midway through the second period. Francisco found her open in the circle, and the conference's leading goal scorer finished the play.
"Angie did a good job tying up the girl in the corner and the puck popped out to me," Shewchuk said. "When I turned around there was nobody there so I went directly to the net. Ungewitter left the five-hole open so I just tried to not miss."
With 2:28 left in the period, Catlin scored the game-winner. Suurkask won a face-off in the offensive zone and, before St. Lawrence could blink, Catlin was at the doorstep sending the puck top-shelf.
"We have a play where I go behind the center if she wins the face-off and that's what Kiirsten did," Catlin said of her third collegiate goal. "I picked up the puck, twisted through their wing and took the shot."
Until the final minute of regulation, Harvard was unable to add to its two-goal lead. But solid forechecking--especially from the line of Suurkask, Catlin and freshman winger Kalen Ingram--kept the puck out of the defensive zone and the Saints could not set up their offense. Although St. Lawrence forward Caroline Trudeau cut the lead to one with 11:15 remaining, the Saints only managed five shots in the entire third period.
"We've been working on a new forecheck where we lock on the wing that's coming out," Catlin said. "We don't have the playmaking skills that the first line has so we definitely put a lot of effort into dumping it in and forechecking all over the ice."
The Saints led early in the second period when rookie Shannon Smith set up classmate Chera Marshall to make the score 2-1. But Harvard got the equalizer less than five minutes later on a power play goal from Francisco.
Shewchuk added a second goal late in the game on the face-off following Ruggiero's empty-netter. Botterill scored in the first period for Harvard, as did St. Lawrence rookie Vicky Hauck.
Harvard 5, Cornell 0
Shewchuk and Botterill each scored twice for the Crimson, with Ruggiero notching the Crimson's fifth goal with less than two minutes to play in the third period. By the end of the night, Harvard had taken a whopping 60 shots, 40 of which were on target, and only an impressive effort by Cornell's freshman goaltender prevented a Harvard blowout.
"I think we did have an advantage in many aspects," Botterill said, "but they're always a tough team, so we had to play pretty well."
Shewchuk, the team's leading scorer, started the barrage early for Harvard. Shewchuk scored on a nifty move off a breakaway only 1:56 into the first period. Francisco and Ruggiero were credited with assists on the play.
Botterill extended the lead to 2-0 at 14:06 into the first, with Van Reesema and Ruggiero getting nods for the assist. Shewchuk extended Harvard's lead to 3-0 with exactly one minute left in the first on a neat give-and-go from Francisco, who was credited with the assist.
"We really came together and clicked well," Botterill said.
Botterill then scored her second goal of the evening just over six minutes into the second stanza, with an assist from Ruggiero and Shewchuk on the play. Ruggiero made it a neat 5-0 with a powerful slapshot 18:02 into the third period. Hagerman and Francisco were given assists on Ruggiero's goal.
Between the pipes, Springer had another fine night for the Crimson, making 24 saves.
Harvard's offensive domination wreaked havoc on Cornell's defense throughout the game. Cornell's freshman goalie Elizabeth Connelly, who was on her toes all night long, finished the night with 35 saves.
It was also a penalty-laden game. There were 17 penalties called, seven of which came in a particularly brutal second period.
"It was a very rough game," Botterill said. "They were out there and definitely out to play physical, and that was definitely part of their game plan."