When the No. 3 Harvard women's hockey team needed a goal the most last night, the top forward line delivered.
Just 2:18 into overtime of the 22nd women's Beanpot championship game at Bright Hockey Center, junior winger Tammy Shewchuk found sophomore center Jen Botterill in the slot. Botterill, the Beanpot MVP, wasted no time in sending the puck upstairs past Northeastern goaltender Erika Silva.
That was the second straight year Botterill beat the Huskies in overtime in the Beanpot. Last year she had a hat trick in the first round, when Harvard erased a two-goal lead to top Northeastern, 7-6, en route to the 1998-99 title.
"She's the go-to girl," said sophomore defenseman Angela Ruggiero. "We have a lot of players that we look for on offense, but Bots is a finisher."
Botterill has never been shy of rising to the occasion. She also scored the overtime goal in last year's AWCHA national championship game against New Hampshire and was named the AWCHA MVP.
"It helps that all of us have been in this position many times before," Botterill said. "We maintained our composure. You love to play in those kind of games, everyone on the ice has so much adrenaline."
But Botterill had plenty of help. Shewchuk set up the overtime goal by threading a gorgeous cross-ice pass out of the corner. Freshman winger Kalen Ingram, who joined Botterill and Shewchuk on the top line last night, also assisted on the play. Ingram added two helpers in regulation.
Whether it was Ingram sweeping the puck across the crease onto Shewchuk's deadly stick or junior forward Angie Francisco establishing her territory behind the net on the power play, Harvard's offense was on a mission last night.
The Crimson pressured the Huskies all night, winning the shots-on-goal battle, 36-23. Shewchuk and Botterill fired from every angle, but so did everyone else. Ruggiero did not hesitate to stickhandle through the defense to give Harvard a 3-2 lead in the second period, and junior winger Tara Dunn had several chances to score in the third frame off passes from classmate Kiirsten Suurkask.
"This was a total team effort," said Harvard Coach Katey Stone. "Everyone played so unselfishly and wanted to help the team. This was exactly what you want for a great college hockey game."
Northeastern made the most of its chances on the other end of the ice, but the reason the game went into overtime was Silva's glove. Silva won the Joe Bertagna '73 Award, given to the goalie with the highest save percentage in the Beanpot.
"Silva had a great game for us," said Northeastern captain Hilary Witt, who was announced as one of the 10 nominees for this year's Patty Kazmaier Award yesterday along with Botterill and Ruggiero. "It was too bad we didn't come through for her in overtime."
Instead, Harvard's offense came through. The Crimson had been generating scoring opportunities around the crease all evening, but the Huskies countered by packing in their defense and putting the game on Silva's shoulders.
That's what No. 5 Dartmouth did last Sunday, when Amy Ferguson had 37 saves as the Big Green beat the Crimson, 5-3. No. 8 Providence used the same strategy the weekend before as Sara DeCosta, a gold medalist on the 1998 U.S. Olympic Team, shutout Harvard for the first time in 83 games.
Everyone knows that Harvard will bring pressure on the offensive end. The Crimson has been frustrated by physical defenses and great goaltending recently, but that didn't matter in the Beanpot.
"We just wanted to win," Ruggiero said. "Silva played great and we didn't bury her rebounds, but we have to shoot the puck as much as possible. We knew that, if we worked as a team, we'd win."
"We've been up-and-down recently," Stone said. "But our performance tonight was not a fluke. Everyone came up big in a big game."
Last night's game will not count in the conference standings. If the season ended today, however, Harvard would host Northeastern in the first round of the ECAC Tournament. It would be the third meeting between the two teams at Bright Hockey Center this season.
Harvard will be hard-pressed to catch No. 1 Brown, which has a six-point lead in the standings with just five conference games remaining. If the Bears win the regular-season title, the Crimson must win the ECAC Tournament to get an automatic bid to the AWCHA national championships in Boston March 24 and 25.
But the playoff picture can wait. For now, the Crimson can revel in its second-straight Beanpot title. Last night Harvard showed it had the best offense in Boston, and it has the trophy to prove it.