Done in by a disastrous second period, the Crimson skaters fell short of besting No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth, surrendering four unanswered goals in a 6-3 series-opening loss. Despite hanging with the Bulldogs (10-1-2, 9-1-2 WCHA) in the opening period and mounting a comeback in the early stages of the third, the Crimson (6-4-1, 6-1-0 ECAC) was simply unable to overcome the 5-1 deficit accumulated during a shoddy second frame.
It went from bad to worse for Harvard in the pivotal middle period, as its back line was repeatedly victimized by the Duluth forwards.
Junior goalie Ali Boe was pulled after allowing her fourth goal of the game 11:29 into the period, only for replacement sophomore Emily Vitt to allow another tally on the first shot attempt she saw, a little over a minute later.
On the other end of the ice, Crimson attackers were confronted with the Bulldogs’ impenetrable 6’ netminder Riitta Schaublin. Schaublin stifled their rushes time and again on her way to a school-record 43 saves, including 17 in the second period while her teammates were teeing off on Boe and Vitt.
“I think today the goalie for them was the answer,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said, “She was tremendous.”
After tying the game 1-1 on tri-captain Nicole Corriero’s team-leading 19th goal of the season late in the first period, Harvard came out of the locker room sluggish to begin the second. For the next 20 minutes, its defense seemed a step behind the opposing onslaught.
“I think we’re a very offensive-minded team right now,” Corriero said. “We’re trying to focus too much on scoring, which is obviously important, but we need to take care of our D-zone first.”
With Schaublin stymieing the Crimson offense, Harvard’s vulnerable defensive was exposed throughout the match. A third of the way through the second period, sloppy passing by the Crimson at the offensive blue line yielded a 2-on-1 breakaway for Duluth that resulted in a goal by forward Jessica Koizumi.
Soon after, skating at 4-on-4, came a slapshot from Alison Lehrke that skidded through traffic and Boe’s five-hole for her second goal of the afternoon and a 3-1 Bulldogs advantage. Then followed a rapid pair of power-play goals—Boe’s final tally allowed and Vitt’s first—and the game was all but over.
“We need to get more consistent on the defensive end,” Stone said. “[Boe] had a tough time seeing some of those pucks I think.”
In fact it was on the penalty kill that Harvard stemmed the Duluth tide, picking up a short-handed goal from sophomore defenseman Lindsay Weaver, her first of the season. Weaver’s goal was assisted by tri-captain Kat Sweet and sophomore Katie Johnston.
Looking to make a late game of it, the Crimson applied offensive pressure early in the third period and brought the score to 5-3 on a power-play notch by junior tri-captain Julie Chu. Harvard’s hopes were quickly dashed, though, when the Bulldogs retaliated 66 seconds later on a quick shot directly from the face-off draw.
Although the loss was emphatic, the statistics from the game told a different story. The Crimson doubled Duluth’s shot output, taking 46 cracks at goal to the Bulldogs’ 23. Harvard also drew three more power plays.
“It seems to be the general trend where we’re dominating games but breaking down a couple of times defensively and the other team in capitalizing on those mistakes,” Corriero said.
That left the Harvard squad hoping to redeem itself the next day by translating statistical success into a ‘W’ against the NCAA’s upper echelon.