Whenever the puck got away, they got to it first. Whenever a rebound appeared, they made sure they had it back on their stick. When fighting the Clarkson Golden Knights Saturday at Bright Hockey Center, the Harvard women’s hockey team showed that it wanted it more.
The No. 9 Crimson (17-9-3, 16-4-2 ECAC) claimed its second straight ECAC regular-season title on Senior Day, defeating the Golden Knights (16-12-6, 10-8-4), 6-1, in an action-packed game that had both an onslaught of shots and penalties.
“Our kids came out with a sense of urgency,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “I think we are playing very team-oriented hockey right now, and that’s what we want to continue to do.”
The Crimson started out the game on the attack, scoring its first goal just three minutes into the game. Setting up the offense, senior Nora Sluzas took a slapshot from the blue line. Tri-captain Jenny Brine took control of the puck and tipped in a shot right between Clarkson goaltender Lauren Dahm’s legs, putting the Crimson up, 1-0, before most spectators had even reached their seats.
Three minutes later, the Golden Knights responded after Brine was whistled for hooking. Clarkson got on the board when junior Britney Selina took a pass from Melissa Waldie and snuck the puck past Harvard junior goalie Christina Kessler with nine seconds left on the power play.
“There was no letdown,” Stone said. “It was just all right, here we are. They’re not going to back down, they’re going to keep coming at us. And everybody knew that, so it was just a matter of responding.”
The team’s opening came on the power play, when senior Kati Vaughn fed tri-captain Sarah Vaillancourt a pass in the Harvard end. Vaillancourt drove up the ice, slipped between two Clarkson defenders, and deposited the puck in the low left corner.
In the last two minutes of the first period, sophomore Liza Ryabkina would add a goal of her own. Katharine Chute found her classmate charging in from the right side, and Ryabkina chipped the puck into the right corner of the net, putting the Crimson up, 3-1.
On the defensive side, Kessler made nine saves in the first period. The junior left the game after the first frame, replaced by senior Brittany Martin.
“[Kessler] got banged up, and we just wanted to be safe,” Stone said. “[Martin] was ready to go, and she did a great job.”
Harvard came out in the second, still riding its wave of momentum. At 4:26, on another power-play opportunity, junior Cori Bassett sent a pass to Vaillancourt, who launched a slapshot at Knights goalie Eve Grandmont-Berube. Grandmont-Berube, who took over for Dahm after Ryabkina’s goal, deflected the shot and watched as the puck landed on the edge of Brine’s stick. Brine tipped it in for the 4-1 lead.
Both teams would continue to find themselves in power-play situations throughout the game.
The Crimson had six players hit the penalty box, while Clarkson was whistled nine times.
The next goal, however, would not come during a power play but instead during both teams’ line shifts. Senior Sarah Wilson, taking control of the puck, sent a long pass to fresh-off-the-bench sophomore Kate Buesser, who wristed it into the net to put the Crimson up, 5-1, with 12 minutes left in the period.
“It’s great to see our team just dominating out there, just playing our game and not letting them have anything,” Buesser said.
The third period saw less action, as the Golden Knights’ defense held strong against the Harvard attack. Vaillancourt scored her second goal with less than four minutes left in the game. The tri-captain skated in alone on a breakaway and went top-shelf to seal the regular-season title.
Dahm and Grandmont-Berube combined for 31 saves, while Kessler and Martin finished with a total of 23. The Crimson was 2-for-8 on the power play and held Clarkson to just one goal in six opportunities.
With the regular-season crown taken care of, Harvard’s focus is now squarely on the postseason.
“Today’s the end of the regular season, Monday’s a brand-new season for us, and it’s time to take one game at a time there too,” Stone said. “We put ourselves in a good position. We’ve been able to get back to where we can maybe do some damage.”