Last year, Harvard made it to the National Championship game while Minnesota-Duluth sat at home and watched the games on CSTV.
UMD not only had Caroline Ouellette and an array of offensive weapons, but it also had Jenny Potter—who played for the 1998 Olympic team—and still could not makke it.
If there was one reason UMD found itself on the outside looking in, it was its goaltending. As a team, its save percentage was .907 and it gave up an average of 2.31 goals per game.
While the stats were not horrible, inconsistency plagued the team. In its two meetings with the Crimson last season, it gave up two and then seven goals.
As Harvard saw this weekend, the situation has definitely changed this season.
“Riitta Schaublin played the best of any goaltender I have seen play in years,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “There was nothing to shoot at and when there was—it was criminal, she robbed us over and over again. To have someone back there like that is a huge confidence boost.”
On Saturday, Schaublin, UMD’s sophomore goaltender, set a team record 43 saves in beating the Crimson, 6-3.
Schaublin’s best save on the day came late in the game when she caused the Crimson faithful to groan loudly in frustration.
With just over three minutes left in the game, Harvard was on the powerplay and tri-captain Julie Chu had the puck behind the net and passed it out in front to freshman Sarah Vaillancourt on the left side of the goal.
Although the left side of the net seemed open when Vaillancourt shot the puck, Schaublin quickly came across the net and picked the puck out of the air with her glove.
The only weakness Schaublin showed was her ability to cover up the rebounds and prevent second chances.
Harvard’s third goal came when Schaublin couldn’t keep the puck from bouncing around in front of the net where it eventually hit off Chu’s skate and in.
Nevertheless, Harvard managed three goals total and only that one came as a result of uncontrolled rebounds.
“I think today we put a lot of pressure on their goaltender,” Stone said. “Today, [Schaublin] was the answer.”
Both Harvard and UMD have a number of national team members and some prolific goalscorers.
But during this weekend’s two-game set, both teams found depth to be the deciding factor—a factor that Stone alluded to a few weeks ago as one of the advantages Harvard holds over the WCHA teams it has faced.
On Saturday five of UMD’s six goals came from its second liners, including two apiece from Allison Lehrke—who also added a pair of assists—and Jessica Koizumi.
Koizumi added her 11th goal of the season in yesterday’s matchup—a key goal that knotted the score at 2-2 with 5:26 left.
“One thing I noticed about their scoring was that it was pretty spread out,” Corriero said. “They got production from several different players as opposed to relying on one or two players. It’s a testament to the kind of depth they have been able to develop.”
For the Crimson, Corriero once again had her hand in the majority of Harvard’s goals, but two of the three goals yesterday came from unusual sources this season.
Chu, who has been a playmaker this season and has registered 13 assists, scored her third goal of the game. Sophomore Lindsey Weaver scored a shorthanded goal for Harvard—its second on the season.
For Weaver, it was only her first tally this year.
Although the Crimson offense has been potent to date, players like Chu—who has been moving around between offensive and defensive roles—who put more goals into the net last year, have found themselves in a different role this year in which they have fewer chances.
“We still have to develop and find the right combination,” Chu said. “Just because we have one combination doesn’t mean that’s the way it goes.”
At the same time, when it came down to the tensest moment of the weekend—overtime yesterday—it was one of the best players on the ice who stepped up in a big way.
After Harvard shut down the UMD first line all weekend, Caroline Ouellette took charge and beat Harvard netminder Ali Boe with a hard shot to win the game.
LOOKING OUT WEST
While Harvard was playing WCHA powerhouse UMD this weekend, the other two top teams in that conference faced off against each other.
After both Wisconsin and Minnesota registered two victories in Cambridge last weekend at the Harvard Shootout, the two teams played each other in a two-game set this weekend.
Minnesota took the first game by a score of 2-0, with its first line scoring both goals—one by Natalie Darwitz and the other by Kelly Stephens—to give the Golden Gophers the win.
Yesterday, Wisconsin managed to earn a 3-3 tie against its conference rival, marking only the second time that Minnesota has tied a game this season.
With the tie, Wisconsin asserted that it belongs in the upper echelon of title contenders along with Minnesota and UMD.
Next weekend, it is Dartmouth’s turn to show it belongs.
Minnesota will take on Dartmouth in a battle of the two only undefeated teams left in the nation.
While Minnesota has now played the best of the WCHA and Harvard and shown that it is king of the mountain, Dartmouth has yet to play any team ranked in the top five nationally.
—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.