Fresh off dominating road performances last weekend, the No. 2 Harvard women’s hockey team (11-1-1, 9-0 ECAC) looks to continue its strong start to the new year when it hits the ice this weekend, taking on two more conference foes. The Crimson will face off against Ivy foe Princeton (6-10-2, 2-8-2 ECAC) at home ice on Friday night, but the most important battle of the weekend will come the following night at Bright Hockey Center.
In a battle between the top two teams in the ECAC Harvard will take on Quinnipiac (12-7-2, 7-3-1 ECAC), as the Bobcats look to overcome a one-point deficit and potentially take the top spot in the ECAC standings.
The Crimson topped both the Tigers and Quinnipiac in early season road match ups.
Back in October, Harvard travelled to Hamden, CT to take on the Bobcats in only its second game of the season. A power play goal by co-captain Jillian Dempsey put the Crimson up in the first period, and a second period goal by sophomore Hillary Crowe sealed the 2-0 shutout victory.
Quinnipiac, however, have picked up some steam since the start of its season. The Bobcats enter this weekend’s match-up riding a five-game win streak, fresh off a 4-1 victory over McGill to start off 2013.
Quinnipiac junior Kelly Babstock leads the ECAC with 20 goals so far this season, but the Crimson looks to counter with its characteristically strong defense. Goaltenders Laura Bellamy and freshman Emerance Maschmeyer have split time between the pipes for Harvard. The two are arguably the top goalies in the ECAC; Bellamy leads the league in goals-against (0.60) and save percentage (.967), with Maschmeyer a close second in both categories. Maschmeyer leads the ECAC with a .917 win percentage while Bellamy is second at .857.
Another strong contributor on the defensive end will be sophomore Sarah Edney, who missed the Crimson’s most recent outings while playing for the Canadian Women’s Development Team in the 2013 Meco Cup at the turn of the year.
“We’re pretty excited to have [Edney] back,” Bellamy said. “Our defense has been playing great without her, but to have her back will be huge.”
On the other end of the ice, Dempsey has been the primary source of offensive firepower this season for Harvard, leading the team with 16 goals and 15 assists on the year. According to the senior, keys to a successful outcome for the Crimson in this weekend’s test will be continuing its strong defensive play of late as well as both creating and capitalizing on scoring opportunities.
“We’re going to need to get on them right away,” Dempsey said. “It’s going to be really gritty and tough. We have to put pucks on net, to create havoc and better scoring opportunities.”
“We’ve been putting an emphasis on winning every battle,” fellow co-captain Bellamy said. “We want to come out on top with the puck every chance we get.”
Even with a big match-up against Quinnipiac in sight, Harvard will not be overlooking its first opponent of the weekend. The Crimson’s first outing of the season at Princeton ended in a commanding 9-1 victory for Harvard. Junior forward Lyndsey Fry picked up a hat trick, and Dempsey added two goals of her own. But despite the resounding win, the Crimson is sure to avoid underestimate the Tigers.
“I think that they’re going to come out even harder,” Dempsey said. “If they weren’t already going to be hungry because it’s a game and it’s against Harvard, they’re definitely going to have that bitter taste from the last time we played them.”
This weekend’s matches will both be solid tests for the Crimson, as Harvard looks towards the second half of the season and some tough games against ECAC foes.
“There is so much positive energy,” Dempsey said. “The discipline and the hard-work ethic is probably one of the best in my four years here. I’m really confident in this team, and I have a lot of faith in what we can accomplish this year.”
The Crimson has steadily climbed the national rankings due to its impressive play this season and looks to be a legitimate threat come the end of the year with an eye on postseason play.
“If we stay consistent, and keep having that same mentality and urgency for every single game, every period of every game, I think we can find ourselves in a really good position at the end of the season and definitely make a run at this NCAA title,” Dempsey added.
—Staff writer Brenna R. Nelsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org