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It may just have been the best 5-2 loss the Harvard women's ice hockey team has ever had.
Although the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (12-0) defeated the Crimson at Bright Hockey Center, the game was closer than the score indicates.
"That was the best hockey game we've ever played against UNH," said Harvard coach John Dooley. "The whole team was very disciplined and we played very aggressively."
UNH scored the first two goals, jumping out 2-0 in front of the Harvard women midway through the first stanza. But the Crimson would not let the visitors run away with the game.
Harvard Co-Captain Sandra Whyte, who had missed the last two games due to soreness in her back, took a pass from fellow Co-Captain Bev Stickles, beat a Wildcat defender and slid the puck past UNH goaltender Erin Whitten with one-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first to bring the Crimson within one.
The teams battled out a scoreless second period. Harvard had a number of scoring opportunities, pressing the Wildcats during two power-play opportunities.
Not to be forgotten, the Crimson's other special unit--the penalty-killing bunch--did an excellent job keeping UNH at bay as the women from Durham, N.H. had three woman-up opportunities of their own.
Kudos to the defense: Stickles, sophomores Beth Messmore and Francie Walton and freshman Winkie Mlezcko. They were one of the main reasons the potent UNH attack was neutralized for the majority of the contest. One of the other reasons was the superior backchecking of the forwards, including Whyte and sophomore Joey Alissi.
Harvard's freshman netminder Erin Villiotte was positively outstanding, turning back a whopping 40 shots, including 17 in the hard-fought second period.
"The defense was out of this world," Dooley said. "They were challenged over and over and they did not give up the puck. Erin Villiotte was absolutely terrific in the net."
Villiotte had little chance on Wildcat Captain Karen Bye's goal just 2:25 into the final period. Bye, one of six UNH skaters who will represent the United States in the World Cup this spring in Finland, walked in unmolested and landed a well-placed wrist-shot in the upper left corner of the net.
UNH added its fourth goal a little more than a minute later when sophomore Stephanie Knox knocked in a Colleen Coyne pass as the Crimson got caught overcommitted in the offensive end.
Whyte, a National Team member herself, added her second goal of the night with just over seven minutes remaining in the game when she beat everyone to the net and narrowed the margin, 4-2.
After a series of excellent exchanges between linemates Alissi, Whyte and Ginny Simonds and senior second-liners Jen Minkus and Lauren Messmore, the Wildcats scored an empty-net goal with 20 seconds left in the game.
I Will Survive
"We're lucky to get out of here with a win," UNH coach Russ McCurdy said. "Harvard had some very good opportunities, but our goalie saved us."
"I've never felt so confident against one of the big three teams [UNH, Northeastern and Providence]. I felt like each line could score on every shift," Whyte said.
Harvard has the luxury of four offensive lines for the first time in a few years. Its top three units have been playing fairly consistently. The second line-Minkus, Mess-more, junior Kim Landry--have created a lot of scoring opportunities and have drawn numerous penalties with their fiesty play. The third liners--sophomore Emily Buxton, freshman Diana Clark and senior Laurie White--have done a fine job when on the ice. Unfortunately it does not take regular shifts when play is marred by penalties.
The Crimson does not take the ice again until January 4 when it hosts R.I.T.
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