After handily defeating No. 10 St. Lawrence twice earlier in the season by a combined score of 13-2, the No. 8 Harvard women’s hockey couldn’t solve the Saints on Friday night, falling in a 2-1 overtime loss in the semifinal of the ECAC tournament at Cornell’s Lynah Rink in Ithaca, N.Y.
“Both times we played them it was very early on in the season,” junior Josephine Pucci said. “We knew that they were a different team, and they knew they were a different team…. It was a new day.”
St. Lawrence (24-9-2, 15-6-2 ECAC), the eventual ECAC champion, was able to slow Harvard’s (22-9-1, 17-4-1 ECAC) highflying offense, which had scored 18 times in its previous four contests, including nine goals in a sweep over Princeton in the quarterfinals of the ECAC tournament last weekend.
“Normally in those big games you’re going to see low scoring games with defense coming up big,” Pucci said. “We did our best to shut [St. Lawrence] down, and we had some great backchecking from the forwards. And I think St. Lawrence did the same thing.”
Both teams were close to adding several more goals but came up short.
“There were probably four posts for both teams and a couple inches here could have made it a much different game,” junior Jillian Dempsey said. “We definitely had three posts that I can think of for us. If those went in, who knows what the outcome would have been.”
The Saints were also able to limit the Crimson offense to one power-play goal out of seven attempts. Harvard killed all three St. Lawrence’s power play.
Defense reigned supreme in the first period, as neither team was able to get on the board despite five power-play chances between the two squads. The Crimson held the edge in shooting, 9-7.
The Saints controlled play in the opening second frame, peppering Harvard goalie Laura Bellamy with shots but only managing to score one goal, the first of the game, on an unassisted effort by junior Kelly Sabatine.
The Crimson countered with a Dempsey goal assisted by Pucci and freshman Sarah Edney. Pucci’s shot the puck from the point was blocked, but Edney was able to get the rebound and found Dempsey, who put the puck away.
Harvard looked poised to grab the lead in the third period, outshooting the Saints, 10-4. St Lawrence goalie Carmen MacDonald held off the Crimson surge and helped kill both Crimson power plays, forcing the 1-1 contest into overtime.
“I wished we could have scored another power-play goal,” Pucci said. “I think that would have made a big difference in the course of the game, but St. Lawrence did a great job on the [penalty kill], and we couldn’t get through that tightly packed unit.”
In overtime, the Saints dominated possession, and Sabatine sealed the win with a goal 3:14 into the overtime frame.
With the victory, St. Lawrence advanced to the conference finals, where it later topped Cornell to earn the ECAC title.
The loss to the Saints proved to be a season-ending defeat for the Crimson, as the team failed to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“Overall it was a very fun season,” Pucci said. “But when it comes down to it, you want to win a championship. I think there were a lot of positives and now knowing it’s over, we hopefully have a chance to look at those positives and build on them.”
Dempsey added similar sentiments about the game and the season.
“We fought hard, and we had a hell of a season,” Dempsey said. “We really thought we were going to win, and we knew our season was on the line. We wanted to keep playing hockey this year so, now we are done, the season is over. And I think that’s what hurts the most.”
—Staff writer Cameron Dowd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.