The game-winner, punched through by Frozen Four MVP Darwitz on a mishandled puck by Crimson goalie Ali Boe, ended a roller-coaster season for a Harvard (26-7-3) team that stood near .500 after 2004 and rallied to within a single goal of an NCAA title.
It was an all-too familiar ending for Harvard coach Katey Stone and the Crimson, who have lost the title game in each of the past three seasons, including last year’s 6-2 loss to the Gophers.
“I’m getting tired of this,” Stone said. “But I’m certainly very proud of our kids. We just tried to talk about the really awesome stretch that they’ve had since we lost here on Dec. 11 and we went on a tear. It’s important for them to remember that if they hadn’t answered the call we wouldn’t have even gotten here.”
Stone alluded to the Crimson’s 21-game unbeaten streak (19-0-2), book-ended by losses to UNH and the Gophers on the same ice at the Whittemore Center.
The streak-ending goal came after Kelly Stephens gained control of the puck on the Minnesota (36-2-2) forecheck. She fired a shot on Boe, who was unable to glove it before Darwitz sneaked in for the game-winning tally with just 1:08 left in regulation.
“Kelly Stephens just threw it to the net and I got a pretty nice bounce there right on my stick, and I put it in,” Darwitz said. “I know there was the [defense] out in front of the net and it sort of bounced off some skates out front and came right on my stick.”
The Crimson attempted to mount a comeback in the last minute, but never controlled the puck in the offensive zone to generate a scoring opportunity.
Before Darwitz struck at 18:52, the Crimson had evened the score with a dramatic power-play goal by sophomore defenseman Caitlin Cahow a little less than five minutes earlier.
While Minnesota captain and Kazmaier award-winner Krissy Wendell sat in the penalty box after checking tri-captain Nicole Corriero, Harvard notched its second power-play goal of the evening in five chances on a skidding slapshot by Cahow assisted by Julie Chu and Sarah Vaillancourt.
The game-winner, however, wasn’t the only unlucky puck Boe faced in net.
Though the Crimson dominated on the attack for much of the first period, Minnesota took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission after Wendell poked a shot through junior Ali Boe’s five-hole. As Boe turned to search for the puck as it trickled through her legs, several Minnesota players stormed the net to force it through before Boe could cover up or the referees could blow the whistle.
The second period delivered on the promise of fireworks offered by the pair of loaded offenses, as the two teams traded goals twice, ultimately keeping Minnesota’s narrow one-goal lead intact.
The Crimson shocked the crowd of 2,056 at the Whittemore Center with a stunning tally right out of the gates in the second period.
A mere 46 seconds into the frame, junior Carrie Schroyer played the puck up to sophomore Jennifer Sifers along the right side boards.
Sifers then broke up ice ahead of two Minnesota defenders before unleashing a wrister past Gophers’ goalie Jody Horak into the top right shelf.