Led by the stellar goaltending of sophomore Ali Boe, the Crimson (12-0-1) extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games, posting a convincing 7-2 victory over No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth (9-6-1) Saturday night after coming from behind to stave off the defending national champions 2-2 on Friday.
Boe posted a combined 59 saves in two of her best performances all season.
In the last Harvard-Duluth match-up, the Bulldogs took home the national championship with a 4-3 double overtime victory.
“Obviously, all of us who were here last year remember that heartbreaking loss,” co-captain defenseman Angela Ruggiero said. “So it was nice to come back to the same place and get a win and a tie.”
Though Harvard needed a late third-period, power-play goal from junior defenseman Ashley Banfield to prevent its first loss of the season on Friday night, the entire offense came out to scorch Duluth on Saturday. Junior winger Nicole Corriero had a pair of goals and two assists.
With its impressive performance this weekend, Harvard staked its claim as one of the teams to beat in women’s hockey.
Although the Crimson entered the weekend with an 11-0 record, there were those who questioned whether it could play with the country’s best because Harvard had yet to play a perennial powerhouse like Duluth.
The Crimson answered that question this weekend with an emphatic “yes.”
“I think we had some doubters,” Ruggiero said. “This solidifies the fact that we are one of the best teams in the country.”
Harvard 7 UMD 2
After a tight, scrappy game on Friday night, Harvard came out aggressively on Saturday and put Minnesota-Duluth away early.
The Crimson pieced together one of its most dominating first periods of the season against a talented Bulldog squad. With four goals in the first 18:12 of the game, Harvard chased goalie Riitta Schaublin and stunned a Duluth team that hadn’t lost a contest by more than two goals all year.
“It was definitely a dominating game from the first period to the third period,” Ruggiero said.
The Crimson opened the scoring just 36 seconds into the game when freshman forward Jennifer Sifers scored on a rebound off a shot by Corriero.
Harvard continued the barrage on Schaublin at 10:41 of the first period. After getting the puck from freshman forward Caitlin Cahow, sophomore defenseman Jennifer Skinner fired a shot from the point that sailed into the net.
Co-captain forward Lauren McAuliffe and sophomore forward Julie Chu added goals later in the period, sending Schaublin to an early shower.
Duluth’s Jessica Kozumi’s goal at 18:24 of the first period got the Bulldogs on the board, but with the score 4-1 at the end of the period, the game was all but over.
“That first goal really set the tone for the rest of the period and the rest of the game,” Ruggiero said. “We were definitely happy with the way our forwards fought the entire game.”
Boe turned in her second straight strong performance, stopping a career-high 31 shots and Duluth’s powerful offense in the process.
The Crimson also benefited from its depth. Having played a grueling overtime game the night before, both teams were fatigued on Saturday. But while the Bulldogs only had two quality lines, Harvard played three, which kept the team fresh through the end of the game.
“We definitely felt like we had the legs today late in the game,” Ruggiero said.
Harvard 2 UMD 2
The first game of the weekend set played out just as one might expect for two top-five teams.
Despite playing a strong game, the Crimson found itself on the brink of its first loss since that fateful night in Duluth last year and had to climb back from two deficits and settle for a 2-2 tie.
“We thought we played well,” said Boe, who recorded 28 saves on a solid night in goal. “We pretty much dominated the game for the most part in terms of quality scoring opportunities and pace of play.”
But after the Bulldogs’ star forward Jenny Potter put her team up 2-1 late in the second period it looked like the Crimson might not be able to capitalize on any of those quality scoring chances.
Throughout the third period, the Crimson flooded the offensive zone, but Schaublin—who finished the game with 31 saves—stood strong and turned away numerous Harvard scoring chances.
The Crimson finally got the break it needed when Duluth forward Tricia Guest was called for cross checking at 16:04 of the third period.
Just 30 seconds into the ensuing penalty, Banfield corralled a rebound from Corriero’s shot and lifted the puck past Schaublin, tying the game at two apiece.
The Crimson fell behind early when Guest beat Boe to a rebound and buried the puck into the back of the net, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead with just over four minutes elapsed in the first period.
Harvard struck back quickly, scoring its first of two power-play goals on the evening. At 15:12 of the first period, sophomore forward Jennifer Raimondi found some room to the left of the goal and fired a slap-shot by Schaublin.
Despite a flurry of offense from the Bulldogs, Boe and the Crimson defense managed to keep the game tied at one until Potter’s goal late in the second period.
“Duluth played a very good game offensively,” Boe said. “But the [Harvard] defense did a good job not allowing second-chance opportunities.”
Harvard returns to action next year for a two-game homestand against Vermont and rival No. 2 Dartmouth Jan. 10-11.
—Staff writer David Stearns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.