ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Sophomore Shines in Routs

Three years ago, Nicole Corriero ’05 had 16 points in a two-game set against Union to open the season. Two years ago, she broke the NCAA record for goals in a season.

This past weekend, sophomore Sarah Vaillancourt—a Canadian forward like Corriero before her—registered seven goals and 13 points over the course of two games against RPI and Union. Who knows what records may lay in her future, but she can sure rack up the statistics.

“She’s so good it’s scary,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “She has gotten so much better. She is so quick that she will come out of nowhere.”

In an 11-0 rout of RPI on Saturday and a similar 10-0 drubbing of Union a day later, Vaillancourt had the perfect opportunity to showcase her speed, along with her other skills, in a stunning return to the Crimson (2-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC) after spending the last year training with Team Canada and playing in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

From this weekend’s barrage, a few choice moments stand out, as Vaillancourt’s abilities were evident both in plays she created herself and in those that she helped create with her linemates, co-captain Julie Chu and sophomore Jenny Brine.

Vaillancourt capped off Harvard’s scoring on Saturday when she took a puck on the left side of the offensive zone and single-handedly turned it into the 11th Crimson goal. First, she knocked the puck off the boards and around an RPI defender. Then she collected the puck once again and with some fancy stick handling, beating two more Engineers’ defenders. Finally, she capped it off by throwing one fake and burying the puck behind RPI goalie Emily Ford.

Similarly, against Union, Vaillancourt took a pass from Chu, sped by the entire defense, and then wrested the puck to top shelf on the right, over the shoulder of the Dutchwomen’s goalie, Alex Zirbel.

The goals were reminiscent of some of her better displays of puck control from her rookie season two years ago, when she registered 25 scores.

“[Vaillancourt] pretty much just picked up where [she] left off,” Stone said following the victory.

Nevertheless, against the top teams in the country, Vaillancourt’s stick handling will not prove enough to score goals, and both the player and her coach recognized that after the RPI contest.

“We got a little greedy at times—not with goals, but with possession of the puck in certain areas of the ice,” Stone added.

Therefore, some of the most promising moments from a team standpoint were when Vaillancourt connected with her two linemates for a lethal combination.

To begin the third quarter against the Engineers, Harvard came out on the power play and the trio made quick work of the RPI penalty kill.

Just 18 seconds into the period, Vaillancourt gave the puck up top to Chu, who hit Brine down low on the right side with a pinpoint pass that the sophomore banged off the opposite goal post and into the net.

On the weekend, the first line—led by Vaillancourt—notched 28 points combined.

“We have been practicing for awhile and really emphasizing talking to each other,” Vaillancourt said. “We talk a lot during practices and when we come back to the bench we talk. We’re not at our top yet—the passes are still not perfect, but we will get there.”

Next week, Vaillancourt and the first line will face their real test as they head on the road to Clarkson and St. Lawrence. And as valuable as blowout wins against RPI and Union can be, the key ECAC games like those that are on the horizon are when the great players like Corriero left their permanent mark on collegiate hockey.

And Vaillancourt wants to make an impression.

—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at gmvelez@fas.harvard.edu.

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