NOTEBOOK: Hard-Nosed Defense Leads To Low-Scoring Night for Women's Hockey
For the majority of the first thirteen minutes, senior goaltender Laura Bellamy stood in the net, waiting for pucks to come her way. When the seven shots on goal that Union (17-14-3, 0-9-3 ECAC) managed finally did find their way towards the nation’s leading score-stopper, Bellamy took care of business, shutting out the Dutchwomen in a 1-0 victory.
The win is the sixteenth consecutive for Harvard (16-1-1, 16-0 ECAC) at the Bright Hockey Arena, a place in which the squad has not lost since January 20, 2012.
Bellamy’s counterpart, Union goaltender Shenae Lundberg, had a much busier day in net as the Crimson pummeled her with five pucks in the first three minutes en route to 35 shots on goal for the contest.
Although Harvard failed to convert on 34 of its scoring opportunities, Crimson defenders controlled the puck for much of the match, keeping it away from Bellamy and pushing it towards their attacking zone.
“We have very solid defense and very solid defensive forwards,” co-captain Jillian Dempsey said. “They did their job and our goalie did her job when she need to… Those are almost the hardest games to play for a goalie because you’re sitting around the whole game and then all of the sudden at the last minute they’re just peppering you.”
After a scoreless first period, Harvard came out firing to start the second, taking two shots in the first 40 seconds. The lone goal of the game came out of a power-play opportunity, off of Dempsey’s stick.
“You have to get in to those dirty areas, you have to pay the price,” coach Katey Stone said. “I think we did a better job with it and made it a little tougher on them, but you know, a good game for us to win, a good game for us to try to figure out and challenge us, and one-goal games are hairy, and you have to be able to handle the pressure, and our kids did a good job.”
In the earlier match-up between the Crimson and the Dutchwomen, Lundberg let six pucks escape her grasp, including two scores within five seconds of each other, causing the Union coach to bench her in the second period in favor of the second-string goaltender.
Saturday was a much different story for the netminder, as she turned away puck after puck to record a 0.971 save percentage on the day, rivaling Bellamy’s top-ranked save percentage of 0.968.
“Their goalie was on today, she was tremendous today,” Stone said. “That makes a huge difference with your confidence. You keep working your system when your goaltender’s making the saves she needs to make, and if that weren’t the case, they would have to be doing different things, but they were able to keep with their game plan because of how well she played.”
Dempsey denied Lundberg a shutout when the Dutchwomen were outnumbered on the ice due to a boarding penalty late in the second. Off of a missed shot, the co-captain collected the rebound and put it away to give Harvard the sole point on the scoreboard.
But this lead felt radically different than the one the Crimson held in the first meeting between the two teams, where Harvard gained a commanding six-point advantage by the end of the second period rather than hanging on to a one-point difference.
“I have my hats off to Union and their goaltender and how well they played in front of the net,” Stone said. “They made it very, very difficult for us today, extremely frustrating. It’s one of those games where you just never know if you keep it close for too long.”
A CLEAN SLATE
Coming in averaging 3.7 penalties a game, the only statistic in which the Crimson did not best its opponents, Harvard was looking to reduce the number of scoring opportunities it allowed Union.
“We’re not a dirty team,” junior forward Lyndsey Fry said. “We’re not going to take cheap shots at all. We really focus on keeping our sticks down and moving our feet so that they can’t call penalties on us. With that said, definitely today, they’re a team that works really hard, and when you have two teams that work as hard as we do, you’re not going to have a lot of penalties because a lot of the penalties are either cheap shots, which neither of us do.”
The goal was accomplished as the Crimson incurred only one penalty during the match and killed it. Although Harvard leads the ECAC in penalty kill percentages at 96.1 percent, Stone notes the effort that her team makes to avoid man-down situations.
“We’re a skating team and we’ll… do it the right way,” Stone said. “If we have to kill some penalties we will, but I think we’re doing a good job of controlling ourselves and playing good defense.”
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.