W. Hockey Takes Two on Regular Season’s Opening Weekend
On Friday night at the Bright Hockey Center, the No. 3 Crimson (2-0-0, 2-0-0 ECACHL) dispatched a pesky Raiders (3-4-0, 0-2-0) squad 3-1 in a physical, tightly officiated contest. The following afternoon against the Big Red (0-2-0, 0-2-0), Harvard unleashed a flurry of third-period goals in a dominant offensive performance to run away with a decisive 8-2 win.
In the two wins, the Crimson displayed flashes of the brilliance—on its first lines and special teams units especially—that has the defending national runners-up believing it can match or improve upon that result this season.
HARVARD 3, COLGATE 1
At the close of the first period on Friday night, an air of uncertainty hung over the rink at Bright, as the Harvard team had failed to find the back of the net against the Raiders. Twenty minutes, 13 penalties and two goals later, the Crimson had seized control.
After failing to convert its first five power plays into goals, Harvard finally broke the scoreless tie on a tally with a man advantage.
Released from the penalty box with 8:59 left in the period, junior center Jennifer Raimondi dove into the 4-on-4 fray, freeing up the puck for a shot by senior tri-captain Nicole Corriero. The shot was stopped by Colgate goalie Brooke Wheeler, but freshman sensation Sarah Vaillancourt was on the spot to put home the rebound.
The score seemed to ease the nerves of an eager Crimson team—especially Vaillancourt—and the team settled into an offensive rhythm that dictated play and waited for opportunities to develop.
“It feels just great. I’ve been waiting for so long for this,” Vaillancourt said. “When I first wore the jersey tonight, to be honest, I had tears in my eyes.”
Harvard took a two-goal advantage with time winding down in the second frame. Junior defenseman Jennifer Skinner succeeded in thwarting a Colgate 3-on-2 rush, clearing the puck from the area to Raimondi. From there, Raimondi sprinted down the left side, outskated the Raiders defense down half the length of the ice, and lasered a goal into the top right corner.
“That was a great goal because of her speed,” head coach Katey Stone said, “It was beautiful.”
These were the lone two slip-ups for Wheeler who, starting for unspecified reasons in place of Colgate regular Rebecca Lahar, minded the net admirably on the evening. She finished with 31 saves, and used her 5’10 frame to stuff various attacks from the vaunted Crimson forwards.
“We’ve got to get her a chance against some good teams, to show what she can do,” Colgate head coach Scott Wiley. “She played well. She’s letting things hit her, and I think it’s paying off.”
Corriero sealed the win for Harvard with an empty-net goal with two seconds remaining. That came after the Raiders made it 2-1 with 5:03 left, interrupting a relatively uneventful outing for Crimson goalie Ali Boe, who racked up nine saves on the night. A high shot from the left wing was deflected down into the net amid traffic and obstructed sight lines in front of the goal.
The game on the whole, though, was marked by a strict brand of officiating that arrived with the recent NCAA rule changes. A new emphasis on clutching-and-grabbing penalties resulted in a total of 25 penalties being handed out in the game.
Harvard was tested in this season-opener, but Stone was pleased by the competitiveness her team encountered.
“They made it tough on us,” Stone said. “It was a good first game for us to have.”
HARVARD 8, CORNELL 2
In a game delayed an hour due to a late-arriving referee crew, the Crimson unleashed a torrent of third-period goals to turn a tight contest into a laugher.
After Cornell tied the game at two apiece with 2:35 left in the first period, Harvard strung together six unanswered goals that spoke to a combination of dazzling skill and a weary, inept Big Red back line.
The Crimson jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on an unassisted Ashley Banfield goal that snuck through the wickets of Cornell netminder Beth Baronick and a Corriero one-timer set up by junior tri-captain Julie Chu. Corriero finished with two goals and an assist for the night.
But the Big Red mounted early resistance, managing to respond to the Harvard assault with two goals of its own. Both scores came on loose pucks in front of the net—rebounds that the Crimson defense failed to clear from the crease.
“We let them get too many swats at the puck,” Correiro said. “We can’t let a team get that many rebounds and have that many chances to put the puck away.”
Harvard regained the lead just before the intermission on an amazing set of moves by Vaillancourt. She added her second goal of the night and third of the young season in the second period to advance the Crimson lead to 4-2.
From that point on, Harvard added mercilessly to its lead, bettering its power-play efficiency of the night before with three conversions in the prolific third period.
Harvard’s production was concentrated on the sticks of a core group of skaters. Besides Vaillancourt, Banfield had a goal and two assists, Skinner added three assists and sophomore Liza Solley chipped in with two late goals.
“That’s good,” Stone said. “That’s what you want. We want some balance on our lines and explosiveness throughout.”
Stone deployed her freshmen with greater frequency on Saturday partly to get them playing time to prepare for when Vaillancourt and Chu depart this week for the Four Nations Cup and partly to promote the depth that has been a hallmark of Harvard teams in the past.
“Towards the end of the game, we started to shuffle things around a little bit to prepare ourselves for next week with those guys gone,” Stone said.
Despite the absences, Harvard looks to continue its winning ways in a home meeting against Providence at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.