An American team of college kids needed a “miracle” to defeat the Russian National Hockey team 32 years ago, but Saturday afternoon, the No. 5/6 Harvard women’s hockey team did not need help from a higher power. Instead, the squad rode two first period power-play goals and a dominant defense to knock out Russia, 4-0, in an international exhibition at Bright Hockey Center.
The Crimson had success on special teams, converting its first two power plays while killing Russia’s five chances with one-woman advantages. The Russians were unable to register any shots on goal during most of its power play opportunities, as Harvard’s forecheck shut down the Russian offense during those periods.
On the offensive side, eight different Crimson players got on the score sheet with goals or assists on a balanced night in which every line contributed.
“We’re starting to click a little bit, and it’s good,” Crimson coach Katey Stone said. “You see some nice chemistry between a few players or an entire line…and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’ll get it from anywhere, and we’ll get it clean, beautiful, or ugly.”
Harvard got it both beautiful and ugly in the first period. After Russia’s first penalty, the Crimson used effective passing around the blue line to open up a shot for senior forward Kaitlin Spurling, whose shot trickled under Russian goalkeeper Anna Prucova’s legs. Freshman forward Mary Parker was there to tap it home for the first score of the game.
Six minutes later, the duo connected again on the power play, this time with Parker firing a pass to Spurling who beat Prucova on a one-timer.
While Harvard used its power play opportunities effectively, the squad’s tenacious forecheck kept the Russian offense at bay when the Crimson lost a player.
“With our penalty kill, we aim to be really aggressive, and with that comes a lot of communication,” Spurling said. “The team’s very close this year, and in terms of communication, that’s really essential. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful.”
When Russia did manage shots at goal, it took quality work from Harvard’s goalkeepers to maintain the shutout. After a penalty from senior defender Kelsey Romatoski, Russian winger Olga Sosina juked past the Crimson defense to create a one-on-one opportunity against freshman netminder Emerance Maschmeyer. But Maschmeyer deflected a high shot, allowing her defense to reset.
“Your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer,” Stone said. “But out in front of that goaltender, we are playing pretty well.”
After another Russian penalty, the Harvard offense camped out in its attacking zone, pushing the Russian line physically by keeping them on the ice for an extended spell. But after Russia was finally allowed to change lines, a long pass to senior Hilary Crowe gave her enough room to fire a slap shot over the glove of Prucova to extend the Crimson lead.
After the goal, the team switched goaltenders, with freshman Molly Tissenbaum seeing the ice for the first time in her collegiate career. The freshman went on to make a team-high six saves.
Ninety seconds after Crowe’s goal, the aggressive defense paid off again. Sophomore defender Sarah Edney picked off a pass on the Russian blue line with momentum and sped down the right side of the ice.
She found junior forward Kalley Armstrong with a quick pass to the left, but the junior returned the favor with a one-time pass of her own, leaving Edney with an easy shot past the goalkeeper.
“The two-on-one was as good [of a goal as] I’ve seen in a Harvard jersey,” Stone said of Edney’s goal.
The third period opened slowly, with no penalties or shots on goal for the first several minutes. At one point, senior forward Jillian Dempsey, who has a 23-game point streak going in collegiate play, was able to juke past three Russian defenders but fired just wide of the net.
Harvard continued to dominate possession throughout the period, but could not find a way past keeper Anna Vinogradova, who fought off several scraps in front of her net. But on the other side of the ice, the Russians could not muster enough to beat Tissenbaum, with the international team being outshot by the crimson, 27-11, when the final whistle sounded.
Russia did not leave completely empty-handed, though. The teams held a practice shootout after the match. Both goalkeepers managed to make several saves, but Russia edged the Crimson, 2-1, in the shootout.
—Staff writer Peter G. Cornick can be reached at email@example.com.