After two periods and nearly two dozen shots on goal, the Harvard women’s hockey team’s offense was understandably frustrated.
But pair of quick goals to start the third period was all the offense the Crimson (7-7-2, 6-3-2 ECAC) would need, as the defense held strong to preserve a 2-1 victory over St. Lawrence (9-11-2, 4-6-0) on Friday night at Bright Hockey Center.
“I thought it was a great hockey game,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “Both goaltenders played real well. There was a lot of energy in the building, and I think everybody was trying to stick to their game plan. I’m happy with how our kids played.”
Through two periods, the game was marked by the play of the netminders, as sophomore Laura Bellamy and her Saint counterpart, rookie Caitlyn Lahonen, traded impressive saves to keep the contest a scoreless stalemate.
The Crimson got the best of the early scoring chances, as St. Lawrence was whistled for two penalties in the opening six minutes of the game. But the Saints’ defense was up to the challenge, disrupting Harvard’s passing game and holding the Crimson to just two shots in four minutes of man-up play.
Harvard kept the pressure in the offensive end of the ice, not allowing a St. Lawrence shot for the first 8:25 of play, but the Saints got their opportunity late in the first period.
Sophomore Josephine Pucci and senior Katharine Chute were sent to the box with consecutive penalties, leaving the Crimson defense with 1:38 of a 5-on-3 penalty kill.
But Bellamy and her defense came up big to stymie St. Lawrence’s chances.
“She’s just solid,” Stone said of her goaltender. “She’s making the saves she needs to make, playing within herself. You’ve got to have some confidence, you’ve got to play with an edge, and I think that’s what she’s starting to do.”
After surviving another penalty early in the second period, Harvard began to pick up the offensive pace, putting 16 shots on Lahonen in the frame, including a stretch of play when the Crimson recorded 12 consecutive shots.
Some of Harvard’s best chances came on the power play, with Pucci using some impressive stickwork to travel the length of the ice before Lahonen stuffed her shot. Tri-captain Liza Ryabkina followed with a hard slapshot that was also turned away by the rookie netminder.
Time and time again, the Saints’ defense stumped the potent Crimson offense.
“[St. Lawrence] backchecked hard; their goaltender made a lot of big saves in the first period,” Stone said. “And then things happen, the game changes quite a bit. They jumped up a kid on offense, we jumped up a kid on offense, so we had a lot of fluky chances sometimes. But I like how our kids kept their composure.”
Coming out of the second intermission, Harvard seemed set on finally solving Lahonen. And just 45 seconds into the third period, it did.
“Going into the third, it’s 0-0—we’re going to grind it out, and I think that’s exactly what we did,” Bellamy said. “We just went hard to the net the first couple minutes of the third, just kind of hoping one was going to come up our way, and it definitely happened.”