One week after the Bruins paraded their Stanley Cup trophy through Harvard Square, the Harvard women’s hockey team earned a celebration of its own.
On Saturday night, the Crimson took on McGill in its first exhibition game and defeated the Martlets, 3-1. Despite the scoreless first period, Harvard’s offense took off with 3:42 left in the second with a goal by junior forward Jillian Dempsey. Her score was followed by goals from sophomores Kalley Armstrong and Gina McDonald with 8:03 and 0:20 left in the game, respectively.
“I think it was a great way to get started,” Dempsey said. “It’s awesome to be back in the jersey. We have an amazing squad this year, and a lot of really good freshmen are coming up. This game showed that we have a lot of things we have to work on and develop, but overall, I think we’re really happy.”
Throughout the scoreless first period, the biggest disparity was the number of penalties called on the Crimson as opposed to McGill. While the Martlets only had one penalty, Harvard tallied four. But because of the high total, the team was able to prove its strength in penalty kill.
“We had to kill a lot of five on three [penalties],” Crimson coach Katey Stone said. “That was definitely good practice for us. But we have to stay out of the box, stay aggressive, and use our sticks better. Overall though, we’re getting it. We have a lot of kids who have played in kills before, but we have to stay out of the box. That’s number one.”
Dempsey agreed with Stone, emphasizing the importance of the penalty kill.
“We’re really happy with how our penalty kill went, though we obviously don’t want to be giving up that many penalties,” Dempsey said. “We’ve done a lot of practice on the PK, and since we worked on that so much, it turned out really great. Everybody played hard and hustled.”
At the 9:13 mark of the second period, McGill’s Leslie Oles took advantage of a Harvard penalty and was the first player to put the puck in the net to give the Martlets a 1-0 lead after a quick pass from teammate Melodie Daoust. But, the Crimson was not at a disadvantage for long as Dempsey followed-up with a goal of her own.
“I got it in the middle and was on a two-on-one with [sophomore Lindsey Fry],” Dempsey said. “The defenseman shaded over to Fry, so I didn’t have the passing option. I just faked a shot, pulled it over to the left, shot it towards the top corner, and it went in.”
The goal was a result of a slotted pass from McDonald, who earned the assist on the play.
“I saw her flying up the middle of the ice when I got the pass from [sophomore Marissa Gedman],” McDonald said. “I touched it to the middle for Jillian to pick up, and she took it down the ice, faked out the goalie, and put it away.”
Four penalties later, Armstrong led a break, dribbling the puck down the right side of the ice and ultimately finishing with a score.
“I saw Gina and really actually wanted to pass to her,” Armstrong explained. “But I guess last minute I just decided to throw it towards the net. The support of my teammates right then was awesome and really helped my play.”
Not to be outdone, McDonald followed Armstrong’s path down the right side of the ice, and rounded off the score, 3-1, with a goal of her own. Twenty seconds later, the game was complete, and Harvard won its first matchup of the season. Along with the strong offensive showing, both teams’ goalkeepers came through and kept the game under control. For the Martlets, goalkeeper Charlene Labonte saved 28 out of the Crimson’s 31 shots.
“Both goaltenders did fantastically today, I thought,” Stone said. “On offense, we had some pretty good opportunities, but their goalkeeper kept them in the game. It could have been a very different score without that. Our goalkeepers also kept us in the game, so overall, it was pretty encouraging.”
With one game under its belt, the Crimson is one victory closer to regaining the Ivy League title that it captured in 2008 and 2009. Armstrong, who missed out on the championship years, knows what it will take to get her team to that level.
“One of our strengths is definitely our speed,” Armstrong said. “As we also have a very short bench, I feel like we can take advantage of that speed ... Our chemistry looks good, and it’ll get better, so this game was a really good start to our season. We’ll go from there, and we’ll be good.”