So far this season, the story at home for the No. 4 Harvard women’s hockey team had been bend, but don’t break.
A last-minute goal by St. Lawrence on Friday night ended that story with a 2-1 loss, before the Crimson rounded back into form on Saturday by edging Clarkson, 4-3.
“Everybody’s got to step up and play with a greater sense of urgency,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “We don’t have enough people performing consistently for us on a given evening. There has got to be something extra from the Harvard side.”
Earlier this year at Bright Hockey Center, against a highly touted squad from the University of New Hampshire and its bitter rival Dartmouth, Harvard came away with hard-fought ties.
But on Friday night, the Crimson (15-4-2, 12-3-1 ECAC) finally broke as No. 6 St. Lawrence (20-5-2, 12-4-0) scored with 50 seconds left and then held on the victory. The loss was the first at home for Harvard this season.
“I think we just needed more grit,” co-captain Julie Chu said. “They didn’t run us into the ground, they didn’t run circles around us. Maybe that little extra grit is what we needed.”
A day later, the Crimson edged the Golden Knights after managing just two shots on net in the first period and going down 2-0 in the second period.
The Crimson is currently tied for second in the ECAC and has its next six games on the road, including the Beanpot Tournament, taking place at Boston College this year.
“The expectation that March is going to come around and we are going to be there—they need to think twice,” Stone said. “They need to take a quick look and say, ‘The only way you are going to play in the postseason is to make it happen now.’”
HARVARD 4, CLARKSON 3
It was a good thing for Harvard on Saturday that a game lasts three periods.
After the opening 20 minutes of hockey at Bright Hockey Center, the Crimson had only managed two shots on the Clarkson net. After 40 minutes, Harvard found itself in a 2-1 hole and on the verge of dropping into fourth place in the ECAC standings.
“Clearly, in a situation like that, you see what the character of your team is,” Stone said.
With a surge in the final period, and a lot of offense from Chu, the Crimson showed its true abilities and came back to beat the Golden Knights by a 4-3 final.
Chu scored the lone Harvard goal in the second frame, and then netted one in the third and assisted on the other two tallies. The two goals brought her season total to 12, while her points total of 41 leads the team.
“[Chu] carries the team every day,” Stone said, “whether she’s in the box score or not.”
In the decisive final frame, the Crimson outshot Clarkson 14 to 6, after managing a total of 14 chances on a defensive-minded Golden Knights squad in the first two periods.
Also, Stone made the decision in the third period to sub out sophomore goalie Brittany Martin, who had started the game and had allowed three goals on 15 shots. The decision came immediately after Clarkson’s third goal, which knotted the score at 3 apiece. Freshman Cristina Kessler came in with 15:29 left to play, got three saves, and improved her record to 5-2-1 on the season.
“We needed a change in momentum a little bit,” Stone said. “We got a little bit of a break from the Clarkson onslaught. That’s the beauty of having two great goaltenders.”
ST. LAWRENCE 2, HARVARD 1
After the 2-1 loss to the Saints on Friday night, Stone described her discussion with the team and then a separate meeting with the coaches as “re-inventing the wheel.”
“Things need to change. Basically I said, ‘This stinks,’” Stone said. “We need to get ourselves out of the gray area as far as a hockey team. We need to separate ourselves from some other teams in the country. We were in position to do that tonight. Yes, this is a good hockey team and yes, we hit posts, but you know what? It doesn’t matter how many posts you hit if you don’t finish with a win.”
Although St. Lawrence came away with the victory, the two teams played on a similar level all night. Harvard barely edged the Saints in shots, 31 to 27, while both teams went 0-for-5 on the power play.
The game-winning score came just as the arena announcer finished saying that one minute was left to play in regulation. Crystal Connors found Alison Domenico in front of net with a pass from behind Harvard freshman netminder Christina Kessler, and Domenico one-timed the shot in for a goal.
Kessler stopped a total of 25 shots for the game, losing only her second game of the year.
The Crimson scored its lone goal near the end of the opening frame with a heads-up play from freshman defender Kathryn Farni and the nice finishing touch of its stars. Gathering the puck off of a faceoff, Farni waited for the right moment and threw the puck on net. The rebound was picked up by Chu, who got it to Vaillancourt just outside of the crease on the left. The sophomore slammed home the puck past sprawled-out St. Lawrence netminder Meaghan Guckian.
The Saints’ Carson Duggan netted the first goal of the game on a soft chance. Annie Guay tossed the puck on net from near the blue line, and Duggan deflected it, causing it to trickle under Kessler’s right pad and in for the score.
In the final 50 seconds, the Crimson came away from a timeout with the sense of urgency it has been looking for. Even in the final three seconds, a 6-on-4 advantage and some quick work gave Harvard one final look, but it could not capitalize.
“The biggest thing was making sure we got control of the puck, and got it into the neutral zone and get pucks to the net,” Chu said. “When it comes down to that, it often isn’t pretty. Our goal was just to get it to the net and try to create some chances.”
—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.