The No. 7 Harvard women’s ice hockey team closed out its regular season with a fifth straight win over Yale, 3-1, to clinch a share of the Ivy League title on Tuesday night at Bright Hockey Center.
The Crimson (21-5-3, 17-3-2 ECAC), which last won an Ancient Eight championship in 2009, will split the conference title with Cornell.
“You have opportunities to win things throughout the year,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “It doesn’t just happen through February—it happens in every game you play. We put ourselves in a position to win an Ivy title and share it with Cornell. That’s a great thing for us. It’s nice to have that for our seniors and everyone else in the program.”
The Bulldogs (5-21-4, 4-15-3 ECAC) were held to just 12 shots on goal, the same number that they registered when they hosted the Crimson in a 4-0 Harvard shutout on Nov. 3.
Knotted at 1-1 after the first two stanzas, Stone’s team knew the third period would be crucial in determining if it would finish the season on a positive note.
“Everyone was pumped in the locker room going into the third [period],” freshman forward Mary Parker said. “We knew we were tied and it was a big moment. We had 20 minutes left to make a statement and roll into Dartmouth this weekend. We were all excited and wanted to work hard and do our best.”
Four and a half minutes into the closing frame, sophomore defenseman Michelle Picard found senior forward Kaitlin Spurling on the left side of Yale’s attack zone. Spurling drilled the puck, off Picard’s assist, past Yale goaltender Jaimie Leonoff for a one-point advantage.
Leonoff made 35 saves through a contest during which she found herself under a constant stream of shots from Crimson skaters.
“Their goaltender played really well for them, hat's off to her.” Stone said. “We had a lot of pressure and a lot of good looks at the net. There were scrambles in front, so she did a really nice job managing her area.”
Nearly 14 minutes later, in front of an empty goal, Parker slapped a fast shot from the neutral zone and found the back of the net to put Harvard up, 3-1, with just 92 seconds left in the contest.
“[Parker is] playing hard and she’s earning everything she’s getting and that’s great,” Stone said. “Sometimes you get those empty netters, but for sure she earned her empty netter tonight because she played with a lot of grit. She killed a lot of penalties and she played great d-zone.”
The goal was Parker’s second of the night and fifth this month. Almost six minutes into the first period, the rookie sent an unassisted puck flying into the goal past Leonoff from the top of the right circle.
“[Before] the first goal, I was coming off the bench,” Parker said. “[Junior] Lyndsey [Fry] and [co-captain] Jillian [Dempsey] were working really hard in the corner and the puck popped out. I just went in and tried to get towards the middle and take a shot. I was pretty lucky there.”
The Bulldogs responded about six minutes later with a goal of their own. Senior forward Natalie Wedell tried to slip the puck in past the Crimson’s senior goaltender Laura Bellamy. Bellamy rebuffed her attempt but was unsuccessful at stopping Bulldog forward Patricia McGauley, who was assisted by Wedell and sophomore defenseman Madi Murray.
The puck stopped there for Yale, which went scoreless for the rest of the contest. The rest of the team’s play was dominated by an inability to penetrate Harvard’s offensive zone and a rash of penalties.
The Bulldogs picked up four penalties, while the Crimson notched five infractions. Neither team was able to convert on its power play opportunities.
“It was a hard fought game today,” Stone said. “We had to really dig in at the end and find a way to win. Certainly we’re psyched. Our kids have been earning this all season so it’s nice.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.