The Harvard women’s hockey team crafted an impressive offensive effort to defeat Cornell (4-4-1, 2-4-1 ECAC) 5-1 at Bright Hockey Center on Saturday. The Crimson (4-2-2, 4-2-2) dominated in the second and third periods led by the line of tri-captains Sarah Vaillancourt and Jenny Brine and senior Sarah Wilson. With spectacular plays by Vaillancourt, the game was one of the most exciting matchups of the season.
“It was a pretty tight game for two periods, and then we were able to open things up,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “They scored and we responded with more composure, and it’s exactly what we are capable of.”
After an uneventful first period, Cornell came out aggressively in the second. In the first two minutes of the frame, the Big Red had three good looks at the net, including a close-range slapshot, but it could not break junior goaltender Christina Kessler.
But it would be the Crimson that struck first in the frame, after Brine recovered her own shot to sneak it in.
The second half of the game was marked by multiple Crimson shot attempts and dominant goaltending by Cornell junior goaltender Jenny Niesluchowski. Harvard was able to convert on its attempts with a spectacular power-play goal by Wilson. Vaillancourt brought the puck up, then quickly dropped it back to Wilson with a no-look pass for the one-timer. The Crimson outshot Cornell, 20-7, in the second.
Harvard extended its dominant style of play in the third period, tallying three more goals despite minimal shot opportunities.
Cornell cracked open the third with a close-range goal only two minutes into the frame, but the Crimson responded three minutes later with a power-play goal by Vaillancourt, who swooped in front of the net and made an impressive back-handed flip shot.
“Puck movement and puck possession allowed us to capitalize on power plays that we haven’t been taking advantage of,” Stone said. “It was really about keeping it simple.”
Vaillancourt has taken part in nine out of the last 10 Harvard goals, posting four goals and five assists on the weekend. Aside from posting goals and assists, Vaillancourt created an exciting game with puck flips and behind-the-back shots.
Wilson wasn’t far behind, tallying three goals and five assists on the weekend. She closed out the weekend with a breakaway goal, giving her a hand in all five Crimson goals against the Big Red.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Vaillancourt said. “I think we battled, and we just went at it, and the hard work finally paid off.”
With three minutes left in the period, Cornell pulled its goalie. Harvard took advantage of the empty net off a Vaillancourt shot from the right board. Harvard concluded the scoring run with Wilson’s goal with only 10 seconds left in the game. Despite only posting nine shot attempts, the Crimson tallied three goals in the period.
“We got a little momentum going, good things happened last night and good things happened tonight,” Stone said. “We got to have a little moxie and know we are going to win if we play well and play together.”
In the end, Harvard outshot Cornell, 39-27, and was 3-for-7 on power plays, while keeping the Big Red scoreless on all five of its power-play opportunities.
“It was just a matter of time,” Wilson said. “I think our confidence is back to where it needs to be.”