They say all good things must come to an end, and that proved to be the case Friday night for the No. 2 Harvard women’s hockey team, which dropped a 3-1 decision to No. 7 Clarkson to snap its 13-game ECAC winning streak to start the year.
Carly Mercer did all the damage for the Golden Knights (20-6-0, 12-2-0 ECAC), registering her first career hat trick in the victory. Junior forward Kalley Armstrong had the lone goal for the Crimson (17-2-1, 13-1-0), which remains atop the ECAC despite the loss.
“It certainly didn’t look like Harvard hockey,” junior forward Lindsey Fry said. “We were struggling a little bit. A big reason for that is that we haven’t really played a team that strong in a while... They threw everything they had at us and I think it caught us off guard.”
Mercer scored twice in the third period against Crimson freshman goaltender Emerence Maschmeyer, who earned her first loss against a Clarkson squad that outshot Harvard 25-19.
At the other end of the ice, Golden Knights netminder Erica Howe benefitted from her defense’s strong penalty kill, which denied Harvard on six of its seven power play opportunities. Seven Harvard penalties, meanwhile, gave Clarkson the opportunity to score two goals on five-on-four play.
“Our execution on the penalty kill was not what we wanted it to be and not where it’s been all year,” Crimson coach Katie Stone said.
Facing the team’s first ranked opponent since Northeastern on Nov. 27, Stone gave the rookie Maschmeyer the road start over co-captain Laura Bellamy, despite the latter leading the nation in goals against average and save percentage.
Though Maschmeyer has been dominant all season long as well, on Friday she could not stop Mercer, who scored the go-ahead goal 2:35 into the final period.
After the freshman made a sprawling save with her left leg, the rest of the net was left exposed. Mercer found herself wide-open on the rebound and lifted the puck over Maschmeyer’s stick and inside the left post to put Clarkson ahead, 2-1.
“They play a system and they play it very well, where they just sit people on the back door,” Fry said. “[Mercer] just happened to be at the right place at the right time, and she just whacked away at at the net. We didn’t do a good job covering her in front.”
Nine minutes later, Mercer was back at it again, putting home a rebound off of an Erin Ambrose shot for a power-play score that gave the Golden Knights some much-needed breathing room.
“We gave them more [chances] than they should have had,” Stone said. “Ultimately a goalie shouldn’t have to make three, four saves before a puck gets cleared.”
Harvard could not generate anything the rest of the night against Howe, who registered her 50th career victory to break the Clarkson all-time record.
Sophomore defenseman Michelle Picard led the Crimson with three shots, while co-captain Jillian Dempsey, who entered the contest fourth in the country in goals, was limited to just two attempts.
“That game was certainly very humbling for us and it taught us a lot,” Fry said. “I think that it’s really going to help us going forward here to learn about who we are and who we want to be for the rest of the season.”