With the ECAC’s No. 2 seed on the line heading into the last weekend of the regular season, the Harvard women’s hockey team knew it had to best Brown on Friday night to edge Clarkson in the conference standings.
And thanks to strong performances on both sides of the puck, the Crimson did just that, taming Brown, 5-1, at Bright Hockey Center.
Cornell later topped the Golden Knights, 2-1, in overtime, assuring Harvard sole possession of the second seed and home-ice advantage through the semifinals.
The Crimson came out of the gates quickly and never let up, though an impressive performance from Bears goalkeeper Katie Jamieson kept the score closer than the game would indicate.
“We came out firing,” junior forward Jillian Dempsey. “We got better with each period. Ultimately, it is about what we do and not the other team, so we just wanted to play our best and improve because the playoffs are coming up.”
Harvard (19-8-1, 16-4-1 ECAC) almost found itself ahead within the opening 20 seconds of the game, as a defensive mistake from Brown’s (8-13-7, 5-12-4) back line gifted the puck to Dempsey in front of goal. The junior launched a shot straight into Jamieson, and then found the five-hole on the rebound only for the Bears to clear the puck off the goal line.
And despite going down a player a minute later, the Crimson continued to pressure Jamieson and her defense with strong puck movement and quality looks at goal. But Brown withstood the pressure down low, with Jamieson shutting down a number of Harvard scoring attempts.
But the Crimson broke through just under 13 minutes into the frame, as the puck found its way to freshman defender Sarah Edney at the top of the slot, who fired a backhand off Jamieson’s glove and into the back of the net.
But the one goal was all the Crimson would find in the first period, despite its numerous opportunities, as the Bears defense held its own.
To give the Brown defense new looks, Harvard coach Katey Stone wanted to change the offensive pattern of her team’s attack.
“They packed it in pretty good,” Stone said. “They were good defensively down low, and so we wanted to swing the puck up high and generate most of our offense from our defense. And once we started to get those pucks through, good things happened.”
Harvard’s passing around the blue line opened up a lot of open shots from a distance for the first half of the second frame, but it was a breakaway from Dempsey off a steal and pass from freshman Samantha Reber that gave the Crimson a two-goal cushion.
Dempsey deked left and drew Jamieson out of her goal before drilling the puck behind the netminder for Harvard’s second score of the night.
Less than three minutes later, Edney doubled her tally on the day, firing a shot from the blue line off a pass from sophomore Kalley Armstrong that flew through Jamieson’s five hole.
With the puck movement along the blue line providing goals, the Bears were forced to cover out wide and unpack down low, which opened up holes in front of the goal for Harvard. This change allowed the Crimson more opportunities on passes and rebounds near the goal, and Harvard soon took advantage.
With Harvard on the power play, junior Kelsey Romatoski fired a shot from the blue line that hit Jamieson and fell to her right, where junior forward Kaitlin Spurling was able to pick up the puck and shoot it past Jamieson, giving the Crimson a four-goal advantage heading into the locker room for the third period.
“Especially from a defensive standpoint, this week in practice we worked on getting a lot of shots through [on goal], and that was one of our goals [tonight],” Edney said. “I think we accomplished that.”
A power play goal from junior forward and Czech national team captain Alena Polenska ended hopes of a Harvard shutout early in the final frame, but sophomore Lyndsey Fry added her 15th goal of the season with under four minutes to play to reclaim the four-goal edge.
—Staff writer Peter G. Cornick can be reached at email@example.com.