It finally got the wins when it counted the most.
After both losing and tying to Yale, the No. 5/5 Harvard women’s ice hockey team nearly saw its conference rivals end its season at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center this weekend.
After 241 minutes of game time, the Crimson (23-5-4, 13-3-2 ECAC) and its depleted roster of just 17 players skated away with one loss, 3-2, and two wins, 3-2 and 4-0, against the Bulldogs (9-26-7, 6-11-7) in the ECAC Tournament quarterfinals.
“I think we’ve been displaying some great hockey—both sides, Yale and Harvard,” said interim Harvard head coach Maura Crowell. “It’s kind of a track meet out there. Both sides are getting their chances, goalies are coming up big, and it’s a rollercoaster.”
With two contests rife with shots and sparse with goals, Friday and Saturday evenings saw a true battle of the goalkeepers. Yale junior Jaimie Leonoff defended her net to a total of 131 saves over the weekend. Harvard sophomore Emerance Maschmeyer tended the goal on Friday, while freshman Brianna Laing made the two most high-pressure starts of her career on Saturday and Sunday to extend the Crimson’s season. The rookie retained a 7-0-0 record for the season, and took the hits from Yale’s corps of talented forwards.
“All along we’ve said that we have the utmost confidence in Bri,” Crowell said. “[Saturday] obviously was her biggest [game] and she played great and showed she has ice in the veins and she’s a gamer. She gave us life today.”
HARVARD 4, YALE 0
After two straight games of stalemates and tight play, Sunday afternoon could not have been more different. Nearly 13 periods of hockey after the best-of-three series began, the Crimson walked away with a shutout to earn its ticket to Potsdam, N.Y., where it will play top-seeded No. 3/3 Clarkson in the semifinals of the ECAC tournament.
While it took a period and a half on Friday and two and a half periods on Saturday for Harvard to score, just 5:30 elapsed on Sunday before junior forward Hillary Crowe nabbed an assist from sophomore forward Miye D’Oench, seizing an opening to drive the puck into the net from midrange. Leonoff, looking tired from the grueling series, could not react in time.
“You know, I think [Leonoff] played an impressive series,” D’Oench said. “We were pounding away and threw everything we had at her, and I think she did as well as she could have done this series. My hat’s off to her.”
Minutes later, senior forward Gina McDonald, perhaps skating for her final home game, bobbled the puck off the left pipe, which junior forward Sarah Edney recovered for a strike past the crease, 2-0. Crowe scored again, this time on a power play, six minutes into the third frame to widen Harvard’s lead to 3-0. An empty netter from sophomore Jessica Harvey sealed the win with 2:45 remaining.
HARVARD 3, YALE 2
It was déjà vu as the regulation clock ticked down on Saturday afternoon. After three periods, the score was still knotted at 2-2. Sophomore forward Dylanne Crugnale and D’Oench provided the scores for the Crimson against Leonoff.
After Yale freshman forward and Olympic Bronze medalist Phoebe Staenz put her team on the board first, it was D’Oench who countered with a tying tally a period later. When Staenz scored yet again, Crugnale responded nearly three minutes later. As a crowd gathered in front of the crease, the sophomore received an assist from Harvey and found an opening between the pipes.
The first overtime period saw the Crimson take several good looks at the goal, only to be swatted away by Leonoff. The goalie made 53 saves for the contest. Both 4-on-3 and 4-on-4 play proved fruitless, as Harvard was unable to capitalize on the day’s eight power play opportunities.