On July 8, 2012, Katey Stone, the Landry Family Head Coach for Harvard women’s ice hockey, was named the head coach of the USA Olympic Women’s Team, breaking barriers as the first woman to hold this post. As Stone prepared to depart from her office at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center and leave the Crimson in different hands for the first time since the 1993-1994 season, chatter began to brew about how Harvard would fare in her absence. When it became clear that several members of Stone’s team would join her in Sochi, the chatter intensified.
During the 2009-2010 season, defending national champion Wisconsin saw its head coach Mark Johnson and two players depart for the Vancouver Olympics. The Badgers barely broke .500 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. The picture couldn’t be more different for Stone and Harvard interim head coach Maura Crowell.
To an outsider, regardless of any pre-season shouts and murmurs, the Crimson appears to be doing quite well without Stone—a three-time ECAC Coach of the Year—and the trio of current Crimson skaters who spent the year training for the Olympics. With a first round NCAA Tournament game on Saturday and an Ivy League crown under their belts, the women of the Crimson look as strong as ever.
Facing fifth-seed No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 6 Harvard will go to its first-ever national tournament without Stone, but the team is in skillful hands. Appointed in April 2013, Crowell has shown what a small but talented group is capable of.
Crowell, who joined the Crimson in 2009, was a tremendously successful head coach for UMass Boston. Under her guidance, Harvard has fought to a 23-6-4 record overall with only three conference losses—just one win away from equaling last season’s record.
Meanwhile, after Cornell spent three straight seasons alone atop the Ancient Eight and shared the conference title last year, the Crimson finally captured the Ivy League Championship—meaningless in utility, full of meaning in pride.
On the ice, Crowell has trained her depleted roster to the highest standard. Harvard posts a team defense just a spot outside the top five nationally and an offense that is currently ranked eighth in the country.
Individually, sophomore goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer built upon her rookie campaign to post the fourth-highest save percentage in the country (.943) despite stumbling in recent weeks. Backing up Maschmeyer between the pipes, freshman Brianna Laing has shown grace under pressure with seven starts and seven wins to her name. Crowell called up Laing most recently in the final two games of the ECAC quarterfinal round against Yale, when stops were crucial to extending Harvard’s season.
Despite having just 18 players—three short of the maximum number of players allowed to suit up for a game—Crowell and her squad have still managed to contend and beat the best in the nation. Without defenders Michelle Picard ’15-16 and Josephine Pucci ’13-15 and forward Lyndsey Fry ’14-15, last year’s second-leading scorer, a new cast of characters has jumped to the forefront of the team. Sophomore forward Miye D’Oench broke through on offense to more than double her scoring output from last season, while juniors Samantha Reber and Hillary Crowe have continued to produce on offense.
Crowell’s success is neither a fluke nor entirely unexpected. It’s impossible to grow without strong roots. Just as her coaching and the play of the team this year has been exceptional, so too is the historic strength of Harvard women’s ice hockey program under Stone. The team would not be here without Crowell and the hard work of this year’s squad, nor would it have the opportunity without Stone’s 19 seasons of consistent excellence.
Yesterday, you may have read of the troubles facing the men’s hockey program and Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91. While the men’s program has undergone a flurry of injuries and withdrawals, there is still plenty to be seen at the Bright. Though the days of the 1989 NCAA Tournament Champion team may have passed, there’s another national title up for grabs, waiting at the sticks and skates of the women’s team.
Though the ECAC title evaded Crowell’s Crimson this year, and Stone’s Team USA was stunned by Canada in the gold medal match in Sochi, the future is as bright as ever for women’s hockey.