BOSTON—The Harvard women’s hockey team has had more than its fair share of bad luck this season. But last night, it seemed that the squad could do no wrong.
The Crimson (11-7-3, 10-4-2 ECAC) turned in a completely dominating performance, routing Boston University (13-10-5, 7-6-3-3 Hockey East), 8-0, in the first round of the Beanpot Tournament at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena.
Tri-captains Sarah Vaillancourt and Jenny Brine turned in matching hat tricks to pace Harvard to its biggest offensive output since the 2007 Beanpot consolation game.
“I think we’re starting to roll a little bit, get some confidence, and you can see it in the kids’ eyes,” Crimson coach Katey Stone said. “How they deliver the puck, share the puck, and communicate, it’s very, very different than it was a month ago.”
Harvard jumped out in front just three minutes into the game, and the team never looked back.
The Crimson set up on its first power play, and a series of well-executed passes from sophomore Kate Buesser and junior Anna McDonald brought the puck to junior Jen Brawn’s stick. The defenseman powered it home from just outside the left circle to give Harvard all the offense it would need on the night.
But the team didn’t stop there. With junior Kathryn Farni in the box at 7:32, Vaillancourt saw an opportunity and seized it.
The tri-captain stole the puck, streaked down the ice, and after evading a defender, netted the puck for a shorthanded goal.
The Terriers couldn’t get anything started offensively, faltering on the power play and generating just four shots in the first frame.
The second period brought more quality scoring opportunities for the Crimson, but the team didn’t break through until halfway through the frame.
Senior Kati Vaughn made an outlet pass up the ice to Vaillancourt, who connected with Brine standing just to the left of the net. Brine poked the puck past BU goaltender Allyse Wilcox to make the score 3-0.
Just over two minutes later, Brine did it again, this time with a little help from her linemates.
Vaillancourt brought the puck up the ice and made a nice pass to sophomore Katharine Chute as she spun to avoid a defender. Chute crossed the puck to Brine, who caught Wilcox out of position and dumped the puck into the wide-open right side of the net.
All told, Harvard’s first line contributed 11 of the team’s 20 points.
“It just happened that the puck just kept going our way,” Brine said. “We had Chute as a new linemate and she played a very good game, kept her head up the whole time and saw the ice very well.”
That was the end of the second-period scoring, but the Crimson saved its best for last. The team exploded for four goals in the final frame.
Just 18 seconds into the third, Vaughn and Vaillancourt connected for the team’s second power-play goal of the night.
Vaughn found an open Vaillancourt in the slot, and the tri-captain hammered the puck home.
And from there, Harvard kept rolling. At 3:27, Brine took a pass from Vaillancourt at the left post and buried the puck for her fourth career hat trick. McDonald was also credited with an assist on the play.
Junior defenseman Cori Bassett got in on the fun at 11:26 on another Crimson power play. After sophomore Liza Ryabkina brought the puck up the ice, Harvard set up its offense. The puck passed around the circle from Vaughn to Vaillancourt and finally to Bassett, who wristed it home from the right circle.
And to complete the scoring rampage, Vaillancourt took a pass from Ryabkina on the power play and broke towards the Terrier net. She went top-shelf to earn her second hat trick in four games.
“It’s one of those games where you shoot at the net and it goes in,” Vaillancourt said. “The team has been playing really hard all season, and the luck hasn’t really been on our side. Maybe [this is] a turning point.”
Not to be overlooked in the offensive onslaught was the solid performance of junior goalie Christina Kessler and her defense. Kessler made 17 saves and recorded her second clean sheet of the season.
“We’ve had a history this season of letting teams get back in,” Brine said. “So it was nice that we really held strong the whole way, kept going strong against them, made it 8-0 and kept the 0…it’s good momentum.”
Wilcox and BU junior Ashley Leichliter, who was making her collegiate debut, combined for 29 saves.
The Crimson had the clear advantage on special teams, converting four of its 10 power plays while holding the Terriers scoreless in its six opportunities.
“We were as good as we’ve been all year,” Stone said. “We played some great hockey tonight. They’re a good team, good goaltending, and we were able to expose their weaknesses. We like the way we’re playing right now.”
Harvard will get the chance to defend its Beanpot title next Tuesday at 8 p.m. against Boston College.
—Staff writer Kate Leist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.