After a strong 5-3 win against Princeton on Friday, the No. 8 Harvard women’s hockey team topped the Tigers again the following day, completing a two-game sweep over Princeton in the ECAC quarterfinals with a 4-3 overtime victory Saturday afternoon at Bright Hockey Center.
Harvard (22-8-1, 17-4-1 ECAC) looked like it could seal the win in regulation, holding a 3-2 lead with just over a minute left in the third period. But after pulling its goalie with two minutes remaining, Princeton (12-15-4, 10-10-2 ECAC) was able to muster a final offensive attack in which Tiger sophomore Sally Butler slipped a shot past Crimson netminder sophomore Laura Bellamy to send the game to overtime.
“This is playoff hockey,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “[Princeton is] a good team…and played inspired for their seniors.”
The third-period lapse was not the first the Crimson had on the weekend, as the team let a 3-1 lead slip away in the final frame of the first matchup with Princeton on Friday night. In that contest, the Tigers stormed back from behind, scoring two goals in the opening seven minutes of the period. But Harvard responded, scoring twice in the remaining time to earn the victory.
“We let them back into the game [on Friday],” Stone said. “Then [on Saturday] we thought we had it but had a bad break. The good news is that we…were able to figure it out and find a way to win.”
Princeton got on the board first in the opening period, with Tiger Heather Landry finding the net just over six minutes into play.
But it did not take long for Harvard to answer. Junior Jillian Dempsey, who scored a hat trick in the contest, scored all of the Crimson’s three goals in regulation, took control of the puck at the half and drilled it past Tigers’ goaltender Rachel Weber to even the game at one.
The performance earned Dempsey her second hat trick of the year and marked Harvard’s third consecutive game in which a player notched a hat trick, with the first coming in the contest against Princeton on Feb. 4. The Crimson went on to win that match, 10-1.
The second period, like the first, saw an exchange of goals between the Ivy League opponents. Once more, the Tigers drew first blood, landing one between the pipes off the stick of Kelly Cooke, who knocked in a rebound three minutes into play.
Dempsey answered ten minutes later with her second goal of the afternoon, capitalizing on a loose puck in front of the Princeton net.
With the match tied at two, the teams went into the final period, a win-or-go-home situation for the Tigers. The teams remained knotted at two for the opening 16:34 until Dempsey notched a power-play goal to break the deadlock, giving Harvard its first lead of the contest. But Princeton had one more trick up its sleeve, mounting an offensive attack to re-tie the game with 1:04 left on the clock.
“With playoff hockey, everyone comes to play,” sophomore Marissa Gedman said. “It was a back-and-forth game the whole time. They came to play, but we did too.”
Like in the first 60 minutes of play, the momentum shifted back and forth in overtime. The sudden-death period became a battle of the goalies, with both Bellamy and Weber coming up with big stops. But with 2:01 left in first overtime frame, Harvard found what it had been looking for all game: a series-winning goal to silence the Tigers for good. Gedman fired a shot through traffic that sailed past Weber as the Princeton squad looked on in disbelief.
“The puck was just waiting for me…. It was a shot you dream about,” Gedman said. “I would say 25 percent [of the goal] was my skill, and the rest just fell into place.”
Bellamy recorded a season-high 33 saves in the win, many of them coming at crucial times in the match.
“[Bellamy] did a great job all weekend, exactly what she needed to do,” Stone said of the goalkeeper. “When things got hairy for us in front of her, she was stable, consistent.”
The win secures Harvard a spot in the ECAC semifinals, where it will compete against St. Lawrence.
—Staff writer B. Marjorie Gullick can be reached at email@example.com.