Since my first day as a sports editor of The Crimson, I have had but one goal: to convince the newspaper to pay for me to jet off to some faraway destination to cover a Big-Deal Game.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. But by picking up women’s hockey as my first-ever beat, I knew I was drafting a winner. After all, in my first season as a writer, the team made it all the way to the NCAA Frozen Four. My older and wiser co-writer got to make that free trip to Duluth (though as he will readily remind me, Duluth in March is far from a glamorous destination) and ever since, I’ve been patiently waiting for my turn.
As it turns out, not every season can be a fairy tale like 2007-08 was for Harvard women’s hockey. The Crimson has continued to be a powerhouse in the ECAC, winning the regular-season title in 2009 before placing third last year, extending its streak of finishing third or better in the conference to eight straight seasons.
But each successful season ended with Harvard being upset in the playoffs, falling short of its goal of capturing its first-ever NCAA title.
When things didn’t go so hot at the beginning of this season, I started to doubt that the Crimson would even earn an invitation to the so-called dance.
But as the calendar turns to February, it turns out that I’ve underestimated the team I’ve been covering for so long.
While most of us may be demoralized after trudging through the slushy streets every day, the Crimson seems to be drawing strength from the dropping temperatures and ever-growing snow drifts.
The women have shaken off their slow start to rattle off a six-game winning streak, rising back up to second in the conference and 10th in the national polls.
And really, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
After all, this is exactly what the team has done for the last three years.
Flashback to Jan. 6, 2009: Harvard sat at 6-7-3 after dropping a 3-0 decision at home to Dartmouth. It went on to win 13 out of 15 games before being shocked in the conference semifinals by Rensselaer, leaving the Crimson as the first team out of the eight-team NCAA field.
Jan. 16, 2010: Though Harvard was in good shape at 9-4-4, a 5-1 win over Colgate was the last game goalie Christina Kessler would ever play in a Crimson uniform.
Despite losing the NCAA record-setting netminder, Harvard rode then-freshman Laura Bellamy to 11 wins in 15 games before falling at home to Cornell in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Jan. 8, 2011: Rensselaer once again gets the best of the Crimson, beating Harvard 2-1 in Troy and dropping the Crimson to 6-7-2. Harvard hasn’t lost since.
The Crimson has found success by doing exactly what it’s always done: sharing the scoring load, playing lockdown defense, and using its experience and conditioning to grind out wins. And with Princeton and Quinnipiac—two youthful upstarts who faltered against previously-struggling Clarkson last weekend—coming to town, there’s no reason to think Harvard can’t run that streak to eight or more.