PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Breakaways don’t get much cleaner than the one Brown captain and defenseman Kim Insalaco had on Harvard goaltender Jessica Ruddock with two minutes left in the second period.
And saves don’t get much prettier.
As the Harvard players moved in one (wrong) direction while Insalaco moved in the other, the 600-person crowd rose to its feet to see what the hometown fans felt would certainly be a game-tying goal.
They had faith in Insalaco. After all, as a junior captain, she was a huge leader in Brown’s turnaround last season, taking the Bears from a 4-5-1 start to the national championship game. She was proven in the clutch, having scored the game-winning goals in the ECAC championship and the national semifinals against then-No. 1 Minnesota.
“She’s a great player,” Ruddock immediately said when Insalaco’s name was mentioned after yesterday’s game.
As Insalaco approached the net, she paused, causing a moment of confusion for Ruddock, who was anticipating the shot. But Ruddock stayed on her feet and kept moving back.
Insalaco finally made her move. She deked to Ruddock’s right side and tried to stuff the puck by, but Ruddock firmly planted her right pad down against the post to shut the door.
A whistle blew moments later, bringing action to a halt. A Brown teammate patted Insalaco on the shoulder in consolation. Harvard breathed a sigh of relief.
“That was a pivotal point in that game for us,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone of Ruddock’s stop.
The nature of Harvard’s domination means that Ruddock doesn’t see many shots in most games. When she does see a shot, it’s more often than not a breakaway or an odd-man rush. That’s why she leads the ECAC in goals-against average but ranks just seventh in save percentage.
Harvard needs Ruddock to stop those breakaways, though. And the consensus is that she’ll only get better with experience.
“Any game you win like this should give confidence,” Stone said.
As if failing on the breakaway was not awful enough for Insalaco, sophomore Nicole Corriero made her day more painful about a minute later.
Corriero and Insalaco crashed violently just inside the Harvard blue line with both players travelling near their full velocities. The collision between the 174-pound Corriero and 140-pound Insalaco (weights measured by their respective national programs) was not unlike one between a truck and a two-door sedan.
While Corriero walked off only slightly shaken—if at all—Insalaco lay crumpled on the ice, emitting sobs that could be heard throughout the auditorium.
After a short delay, Insalaco was able to get off the ice on her own power, but that strength quickly waned as soon as she hit the bench, where she keeled over again. A teammate was required to carry her into the locker room.
The force of the collision and the ugliness of the departure left some doubt as to whether she’d be back for the third period—but not among anyone familiar with Insalaco.
The Brown captain was back on the ice in the final minutes of the intermission as if nothing had happened.
The most striking statistic from yesterday’s game was the shortage of penalty minutes—zero for Harvard and four for Brown. Both sides were pleased with the relative lack of whistles, as well as their discipline.
“I’m pretty happy the ref let them play,” said Brown coach Digit Murphy. “Yeah, it was a physical game, but I didn’t think it was a cheap game.”
“You knew you were going to come down and have it be a physical game,” Stone added. “We didn’t retaliate to any of the physical-ness and that’s impressive. It wasn’t a game of people whacking each other as much as I anticipated. So let them play.”
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at email@example.com.