No. 4 Dartmouth’s big guns scored and those of the No. 5 Harvard women’s hockey team did not on Friday night in a matchup that could have decided the regular season ECAC crown two months before the end of the season.
But the Crimson found its offense from its veteran forwards and fought the Big Green all night, earning a 2-2 tie when the final buzzer sounded and many of the players ran off to study for their upcoming finals.
Harvard (14-3-2, 11-2-1 ECAC) earned the tie by fending off 24 shots from Dartmouth (14-3-2, 12-1-1) in the final period and overtime.
In extra time, the Big Green seemed particularly careful to not give up anything to the Crimson since with the tie, Dartmouth maintains its one-game lead in the ECAC that may prove the final difference at the end of the season.
“We had to be very careful about misstepping in a game like this because if we did, it could cost us either way,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said.
Early on, it was the Crimson powerplay that kept missteping. The Big Green turned a 1-0 Harvard advantage to a 2-1 Crimson deficit with two powerplay goals.
In the first two periods, Dartmouth scored on two of its four man-advantage opportunities, with a third one only lasting a few seconds before a Big Green penalty evened the advantage on the ice. To combat this, Harvard changed up its penalty kill to play tighter around the net, preventing Dartmouth from crashing in at the net and scoring.
In both cases, the Olympic trio of Gillian Apps, Sarah Parsons, and Katie Weatherston methodically moved the puck around and found the holes in the Crimson defense.
Apps beat sophomore goalie Brittany Martin with a hard slapshot that deflected off of Weatherston in the first period.
In the second frame, Apps banged home a puck after Martin got caught on the wrong side of the net on a nice across the crease pass from Weatherston.
The Crimson also changed up its penalty kill to be tighter around the net and effectively repelled the Big Green during its two powerplays during this time.
In one of the kills, the Big Green maintained possession of the puck for well over a minute, not allowing Harvard to switch off its players for a rest. And yet, the Crimson effectively prevented Dartmouth from scoring.
“Special teams became a huge factor, both for Dartmouth and for us staving off their powerplay at the end,” Stone said. “We made a decision to box it up after the second period if we were on a kill again. Just because they were getting stuff inside that was too tough to handle and we weren’t reading the back door play very well. We decided to give ourselves a little bit more support by playing in the box...the bottom line is this time, we killed the penalty.”
Senior forward Katie Johnston, who played well all night, netted the final goal of the contest under four minutes later when she threw the puck toward the net on a 5-on-3 advantage and it slipped in past Dartmouth goalie Carli Clemis
The Crimson started off the scoring on a puck that co-captain Jennifer Sifers shot on net. It ended up sliding right by Clemis left skate.
“I was definitely surprised,” Sifers said. “I’m not really a big goal scorer, so when they go in, I get a little extra excited. Last time we played Dartmouth, they got on top of us early and it deflated us. It was good to pick up the energy of the game like that.”
In net for Harvard, Martin turned away 39 shots, including 18 in the third period. While freshman Cristina Kessler started in between the posts last time against the Big Green, Stone choose Martin for Friday night’s game to give both her player and the opposing team a different look.
For her part, Clemis repelled 28 shots and improved her record to 12-3-2.
“I don’t know very much about her, but she seems to play very well against us,” Sifers said.
The Crimson returns to the ice for another important ECAC contest after break when it takes on St. Lawrence at home on Jan. 26.
—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at email@example.com.