This time last year, the Harvard women’s hockey team fell in a 1-0 heartbreaker to Boston College in the Beanpot final, failing to defend its 2008 tournament title. The loss sparked a fire in this year’s Crimson, which hopes to reclaim the Beanpot crown tonight at 8 p.m. at Bright Hockey Center.
Standing in the way of No. 5 Harvard (15-5-4, 11-5-2 ECAC) will be No. 9 Northeastern (16-6-5, 8-5-4-3 Hockey East), the all-time Beanpot title leader with 14 wins.
“We’re expecting [the Huskies] to come out hard,” said junior forward Liza Ryabkina, who netted four goals in last Tuesday’s Beanpot semifinal. “But we want this Beanpot more than ever, especially after last year’s upset.”
The Crimson reached the finals of this year’s Beanpot after a first-round 5-0 blowout over the Eagles. A win tonight would give Harvard its 13th Beanpot title ever and extend its five-game winning streak.
The Crimson is currently ranked fifth in the nation, despite losing senior goaltender Christina Kessler to injury three weeks ago.
“It’s all about the kids believing in each other and getting better every week…Our kids are working hard,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said.
Stone emphasized the importance of enjoying the sport of hockey, and the Crimson appears to be doing just that—having fun and winning games, as the team continues its season without missing a beat.
Veteran leadership has anchored young talent this season, allowing the team to maintain its high level of play despite Kessler’s injury.
The Harvard defense, led by co-captains Cori Bassett and Kathryn Farni, has stepped up to the challenge, complementing strong performances in goal by freshman goaltender Laura Bellamy—who is currently ranked first in the ECAC in goals-against average.
“We have tightened up in the defensive zone [and] we don’t allow very many shots,” junior forward Kate Buesser said. “We’re very aggressive on the player with the puck.”
Another key factor in the team’s recent success has been its turnaround on power plays, as Harvard scored three power-play goals in its 4-3 victory over Yale on Saturday.
“We’ve been moving the puck pretty well,” said Buesser of her team’s play with a man-up advantage. “Throughout the season, we’ve had a lot of opportunities on rebounds but never took them home [until recently].”
Harvard boasts an exceptionally balanced offense this season as well.
Fourteen different players have scored for the Crimson, with 10 of those 14 claiming at least four goals each. Junior Leanna Coskren has scored three game-winning goals, while nine different players have scored at least one game-winner.
Northeastern is a force to be reckoned with in its own right. Ranked nationally just behind Harvard, the Huskies narrowly beat Boston University last Tuesday in their first-round Beanpot matchup. After relinquishing a four-goal lead during regulation, Norheastern was able to pull through in the shootout, 2-0.