MADISON, Wis.—A year full of heartbreaking finishes crescendoed on Saturday night, as the Harvard women’s hockey team’s season ended with a 1-0 quadruple-overtime loss to Wisconsin in the NCAA quarterfinals at the Kohl Center.
With a last-minute loss to St. Lawrence, a late two-goal lead blown in a draw with New Hampshire, and a triple-overtime defeat at Boston College (BC) in the Beanpot semifinals already on its resume, the Crimson capped its campaign of agonizing results with a marathon defeat at the hands of the top-seeded Badgers.
“You really have to compliment everybody that was involved in the game,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. “I’m sure [Harvard coach Katey Stone] is very disappointed, but you can congratulate her on a wonderful game and certainly the players on Harvard.”
Jinelle Zaugg’s strike at the 7:09 mark of the fourth overtime ended the game at 127:09, establishing it second in duration only to a 1996 quintuple-overtime New Hampshire-Providence game.
“It’s unfortunate somebody had to lose the hockey game,” Johnson said. “It didn’t look like it was going to end. I thought we were going to be here until [the] morning.”
Harvard has now participated in four of the five longest women’s games on record, including the BC game last month and 2005’s Frozen Eight triple-overtime triumph over Mercyhurst. After a run of three consecutive national title game appearances from 2003-2005, Saturday’s loss to the defending champion Badgers marks the second straight year the Crimson has been evicted in the tournament’s opening round.
Sophomore goaltender Brittany Martin was brilliant in her first career NCAA appearance, blanking Wisconsin for more than two games’ worth of hockey before finally letting one by. Threatened with countless odd-man rushes, Martin calmly stood up to charging forwards, fearlessly dove to cover loose pucks, and speared shot after shot with her glove. In all, Martin saw 68 shots, saving 67 to tie Cheryl Tate’s 25-year-old school record for saves in a game.
“She was locked in,” Stone said of Martin. “She was prepared. Last weekend, she was disappointed with her performance [in a 4-3 loss to St. Lawrence], and she came back strong. That’s exactly what you want out of a goaltender. She did a tremendous job controlling the defensive end.”
Badgers sophomore Jessie Vetter matched Martin stop for stop, preserving her 36-save clean sheet until the end.
The loss brought the careers of Harvard’s five seniors—co-captains Julie Chu and Jennifer Sifers, as well as Katie Johnston, Liza Solley, and Lindsay Weaver—to tearful denouements.
“In our locker room, being a senior, there’s many tears,” said Chu, fighting back her own. “Because I love Harvard hockey. That’s what it comes down to.”
“I’m lucky to have two years left,” Martin added. “It hurt even more because you just wanted to go out there and win for the seniors.”
Stone was subdued at the post-game press conference, especially saddened by the imminent departure of the Class of 2007.
“I have so much respect for them and what they’ve done in their four years at Harvard,” she said. “Just a really unique class of kids. They’re devastated. I’m devastated for them. They were warriors to the end.”
Of the two Patty Kazmaier Award finalists on the ice, it was not Chu but Wisconsin’s Sara Bauer who tipped the scales in the end, setting up Zaugg’s game-winner with an incisive cut through the Harvard defense and a crisp tape-to-tape pass.
The Badgers controlled the run of play throughout regulation, outshooting the Crimson by a wide margin in each of the first three periods en route to a 36-14 edge by the end of regulation. Wisconsin was able to possess the puck for extended stretches, cycling the puck out of the corners with ease, but generated few genuine scoring chances.
The Badgers had a chance to end it in regulation when the Harvard bench committed a too many men penalty with 3:52 remaining in the third period. But the Crimson penalty kill, 5-for-5 on the night, held strong.
In fact, that was the last penalty of the night save one—a holding call on Caitlin Cahow 10:28 into the third overtime—as the officiating crew resolved to let the game be decided at even strength once it turned to sudden death.
Harvard was 0-for-2 on its power play.
Without any whistles, the overtime periods were instead full of near misses as both teams—Harvard familiar with bonus hockey, the Badgers not having played more than 65 minutes all year—struggled to stave off exhaustion.
An apparent Wisconsin goal late in the first overtime was waved off after the puck had been blown dead. And the Crimson’s top line of Chu, Sarah Vaillancourt, and Sarah Wilson offered up most of the team’s nine shots in the third OT, its highest total in any one frame.
“I think if you’re going to have a final senior game,” Chu said, “why not make it two games and plus?”
Saturday night’s game brought 5,125 fans to the rink, ranking just behind the Harvard-Minnesota-Duluth 2003 national final for attendance at a women’s college game in the NCAA era.
“I think the fans really got their money’s worth,” Stone said. “It was a great effort by both teams, up-and-down hockey and some great goaltending. Anyone who was in the building tonight should be convinced that women’s hockey is a tremendous sport to take in.”
—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.