Huskies goalie Leah Sulyma stopped 47 shots that came her way to keep her team in the game, and Northeastern remained within one goal of the Crimson until 18:40 into the final period. But in the end Harvard (20-1-0, 16-0-0) affirmed its top dog status, holding off the Huskies (5-16-3, 4-8-1) to pull out a 3-1 victory at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena.
“I think the most important thing that I look at is that good teams find a way to win,” Crimson coach Katey Stone said. “We figured out a way to win tonight…I’m very proud of the way our kids played tonight.”
After each team notched a goal in the game’s early going, neither squad could find the net until almost midway through the second period. With 12:20 to go in the frame, Harvard crashed the net, unleashing a flurry of shots. After several stops by Sulyma, junior forward Jenny Brine came up with a rebound and put it in the back of the net to give the Crimson a 2-1 lead. It was Brine’s second goal of the game and 12th of the season, which ranks second on the team, just behind junior Sarah Vaillancourt's 13.
“It was nice to pull away a bit there,” Brine said.
Still, a combination of Sulyma’s solid play in the net and missed chances for Harvard—including several plays where Vaillancourt carved her way through the Northeastern defense with ease only to find the post on her shot—kept the score even.
But the relentless Crimson offensive assault, which finished the game with 50 shots on goal, would eventually break through for an insurance goal.
After Northeastern squandered a few late chances that would have forced a tie, Harvard once again attacked the net with a barrage of shots, and Vaillancourt knocked in a rebound to give the Crimson a two-goal cushion with just over a minute left in the game.
“It’s a grind out goal,” Stone said. “That’s what I like about it. Those guys paid the price to get that goal. They kept after it.”
“She hit a couple of posts but it was really nice to see her put that last one away after the trouble she was going through,” Brine said.
While the game ended in a similar fashion to most of Harvard’s contests this season, it got off to an odd start.
The Huskies were given a power play at the beginning of the game, due to a protocol violation on the Crimson for not coming out onto the ice on time before the start of the contest. Northeastern took advantage of its good fortune, getting on the board just 42 seconds into the game.
Leading a three-on-two break for the Huskies, defenseman Lindsay Berman flicked a wrist shot that took a strange bounce off the ice and skipped over Harvard sophomore goalie Christina Kessler’s glove.
“You get a bad bounce,” Stone said. “That’s hockey. We tried to kill the the penalty and I think if there hadn’t been a molehole in front of the net we would’ve.”
Northeastern’s early edge marked only the fifth time this season that an opponent has taken a lead over Harvard.
But the Northeastern advantage would be a short-lived one. At 2:58 into the first period, the Crimson took advantage of its own power play opportunity to even the score, when sophomore defenseman Cori Bassett slammed a hard shot towards the right post that was redirected by Brine to even the score at one.
“It was really good to get that goal, tie it up again,” Brine said. “We just wanted to…show them that we’re first place and that we’re going to give them a hard game so it felt good just to get that one.”
After the game, Stone was impressed with the level of play that the Huskies, who are in sixth place in the Hockey East conference, brought to the game.
“I think they just played hard,” Stone said. “They didn’t back off…Anytime that someone can stay close to a higher-ranked team they believe.”
Last night’s win places Harvard in the Beanpot Championship, which will take place next Tuesday at 8 p.m. against Boston University.
—Staff writer Loren Amor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.