The Harvard women’s hockey team turned over a new leaf this season. Despite losing two of its top four scorers, the squad squeaked out its highest win total since setting an NCAA record for consecutive wins in the 2007-08 season.
The Crimson (22-9-1, 17-4-1) first showed its grit on Jan. 14 when it responded to an early 3-0 deficit against Rensselaer.
Harvard scored five unanswered goals in the final 25 minutes as it went on to defeat its opponent and improve its postseason prospects.
“It was symbolic of our season,” junior forward Jillian Dempsey says. “We didn’t always have our best, but we worked hard, gritted it out, and never went away.”
Climbing as high as No. 7 in the national rankings, the squad only got stronger as the season wore on. Between the pipes, junior goaltender Laura Bellamy recorded six of her seven shutouts in the new year.
The outstanding individual effort corresponded with increased pressure on the other side of the ice. Dempsey led the charge with 2.1 points per game, and the Crimson won eight of its final 10 contests.
“As the year went on, the forwards really began to click,” junior alternate captain Josephine Pucci says. “If we can stay in the offensive zone, there is that much less we have to do on the defensive end, so that was huge.”
The squad saved its best all-around performance of the season for a pair of one-sided affairs against rivals Yale and Princeton, surrendering just 24 combined shots.
On Jan. 27, Harvard skated all over the Bulldogs in New Haven, scoring two unassisted goals in the first five minutes en route to an 8-0 victory.
Eight days later it returned home to thrash the Tigers. After losing to Princeton earlier in the season and allowing an early goal, the Crimson unleashed its fury, scoring seven goals in the second period alone.
When it was all said and done, Harvard was on top, 10-1.
“I’ll always remember [the Princeton] game,” says Dempsey, whose five goals came just one shy of tying the NCAA record. “They scored in the first shift and that put us on our toes right away. [For us to score 10 unanswered goals] was something that I didn’t even think could actually happen.”
The team’s triumphs did not end there. Three players—Dempsey, Pucci, and freshman defender Michelle Picard—continued to build off of the season’s momentum by contributing to a United States silver medal at the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championship coached by the Crimson’s own Katey Stone.
Since 1998, 20 former Harvard skaters have represented their respective countries in the Olympics.
Bellamy, whose 1.86 goals-against average was good for seventh nationally, also received recognition for her performance this season with two ECAC Goaltender of the Week awards.