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Yesterday afternoon, the No. 4 Harvard women's hockey team (5-3, 5-1 ECAC) anointed senior forward Tammy Shewchuk as its all-time leading goal-scorer.
Shewchuk moved one goal ahead of former teammate A.J. Mleczko '99 on the Crimson's all-time list by scoring the critical first two goals in the Crimson's 4-0 win over Princeton (2-5-1) on Saturday and two second-period goals in Harvard's 10-2 blowout of Yale (1-7-0) yesterday.
Shewchuk's record-breaking 129th career goal, which came at the 14:42 mark of the second period, added even more color to a highlight-filled weekend that included junior forward Jen Botterill's seventh career hat trick, freshman goalkeeper Jessica Ruddock's first career shutout and the return of former goalkeeper Crystal Springer '00 to the Bright Center as an assistant coach for Princeton.
Mleczko, a U.S. Olympic Gold medallist in 1998, figured it was inevitable that Shewchuk would eventually break her record.
"I'm very happy for her," said Mleczko, who is currently training for the 2002 Olympics in Lake Placid along with defenseman Angela Ruggiero, Class of 2002. "She is such an amazing goal scorer and I knew that the record was bound to come eventually. I'm happy that she broke the record so early in the season."
As soon as the record was broken and the announcement was made over the flaky public address system, Shewchuk earned a standing ovation from the crowd and a hug from Harvard Coach Katey Stone.
"[The record] means everything to her," Stone said. "She's been an integral part of this hockey program for five years now. The greatest thing about it is now she has really become a complete player. She plays both ends of the ice and she's become very unselfish, so it really means much more than it would have before."
Shewchuk, however, says she considers Harvard's overall record over the past few seasons to be much more significant than any of her individual accomplishments.
"It means more that we won the game," Shewchuk said. "Every win is towards a larger goal that we have this season, and every win is important. The goals that come along with that I just see as a part that helps our team win and that's about it."
Shewchuk credited Botterill, who is also a member of the Canadian National Team, and Mleczko in helping her reach the 129-goal mark.
"When you have great linemates to play with, those things are going to happen," Shewchuk said. "Playing with Jen the last few years has definitely helped me."
Mleczko, Shewchuk and Botterill formed one of the most prolific scoring lines in the history of collegiate hockey in 1999. The trio scored a combined 125 goals on the season to lead Harvard to a 33-1-0 record and a national championship.
"We had a very special team that year," Mleczko said. "It was an amazing year which we'll all look back on fondly. We'll always carry special friendships from that team. It's always so interesting when we play Canada, because [Botterill and Shewchuk] are our opponents, but we'll always be friends off the ice."
Harvard 10, Yale 2
The Bulldog defenders, clearly dwarfed by the Harvard forwards, immediately resorted to tactics such as kneeling on co-captain Angie Francisco after she just missed stuffing the puck into the net in the opening minute.
Harvard's third line came up with the first Crimson goal in bizarre fashion. Freshman Mina Pell was left wide open in the right face-off circle, where she fired a pretty shot that clanked off the inside of the left post, but failed to find its way into the net.
While almost everyone stopped playing, thinking the puck had gone in, Pell put her own rebound into the net past the oblivious Yale defense.
"[The third line] is contributing a lot, and they're making an impact for us," Stone said. "If we can play three [lines], we'll play three. If we have to play two, we'll shorten it up."
The Elis did little to get in the way of Harvard's execution after falling behind. Shewchuk had three assists to go along with her record-breaking goals. Botterill had a hat trick and two assists. Sophomore Tracy Catlin scored her first two goals of the season.
Particularly promising for the Crimson was its scoring punch from the point, as sophomore defenders Jaime Hagerman and Pam Van Reesema each struck from the blue-line.
"If we don't have kids who can shoot at the point, they are going to pack it in on us all the time," Stone said. "When our kids from the point are starting to take a couple of shots, it gets them into a rhythm and it opens things up quite a bit."
Even junior goaltender Allison Kuusisto got in on the scoring action, earning an assist on Botterill's second goal after passing off to sophomore forward Kalen Ingram, who set Botterill free on a shorthanded breakaway.
At the end of two periods, Harvard led 10-1. The Bulldogs' lone goal was the result of the Crimson defense accidentally knocking the puck into its own net in the first period.
"Those things happen and we learn from it," Stone said.
Harvard now looks ahead towards a showdown at No. 2 Brown on Wednesday night. The Crimson is the only ECAC team that the Bears failed to beat in their championship season last year.
Despite losing U.S. Olympic Team members Ali Brewer and Tara Mounsey from last year's team, Brown will be a formidable challenge.
Harvard 4, Princeton 0
The Crimson struck first at the tail end of a man-advantage in bang-bang fashion. In the final second of the power play, Botterill controlled the puck at the right half-boards, and spotted Shewchuk wide open on the left side of the crease. Botterill fired a bullet across the ice to Shewchuk, who one-timed the service forcefully and accurately into the fleetingly open portion of the net.
For the 42 minutes following the Shewchuk goal, the game belonged to the goaltenders, Ruddock of Harvard and Megan Van Beusekom of Princeton. With Botterill and Shewchuk on Harvard's side and first-team All-Ivy player Andrea Kilbourne on Princeton's side, both keepers were ably tested.
"That was a great game," Stone said on Saturday. "It was up-and-down, and both goaltenders were awesome today. We took a lot of point-blank shots that their kid saved. But our kid had to save a lot of screen shots, which is a mark of someone being in a zone in a game."
Ruddock was hardly challenged early on, as Harvard's aggressive forechecking kept play almost entirely out of the Crimson end for the first 10 minutes. But the Princeton defenders' passing improved as the game progressed, and the Tigers earned their fair share of shots on goal.
The ever-dangerous Kilbourne got the first significant Princeton scoring chance as she split a pair of defenders between the face-off circles and broke in all alone on Ruddock. Kilbourne tried to slip the puck into the left corner, but Ruddock dove down and deflected the shot wide.
Late in the second period, Ruddock stopped two shots in traffic from point-blank range. Then, in one of the more dangerous Princeton chances of the day, Tiger first-liner Nikola Holmes directed a screen shot towards the open half of the net, but the puck failed to elude Ruddock's extended glove.
"It was important for us to see what [Ruddock] could do in a high-pressure...game, and she did great," Stone said. "She played with tremendous confidence. She made it look easy back there."
Van Beusekom was equally impressive in the other net, stopping an onslaught of Crimson odd-man rushes and point-blank shots. She kept Princeton in the game, though her team was outshot by a 2-to-1 ratio in the first two periods. Her performance was well-received by Springer who, having practiced with the Harvard forwards for three years, knew firsthand how tough it would be to stop them.
"[Van Beusekom] definitely played well today," Springer said. "She came to play. That's what we expect every day from our goalies. But Harvard's forwards--Botterill, [Kiirsten] Suurkask, Francisco, [etc.]--are just so good, so the fact that she hung in for as long as she did was great."
At the 8:40 mark of the third period, the Botterill-Shewchuk tandem ended the scoring draught with an explosive goal. From back in the Harvard end, a Botterill pass through traffic set Shewchuk free on a breakaway at mid-ice.
Van Beusekom meekly skated out of the net in a vain attempt to force Shewchuk into a mistake, but Shewchuk undauntedly maneuvered to the left, past the young Princeton keeper, and fired the puck into the open net.
"I got a great pass from Jen, all the way, coast-to-coast basically," Shewchuk said. "She just made my job easy. I just put a move on [Van Beusekom]. And, fortunately, the goalie made the first move and, when they do that, it's not that difficult."
Nothing could have prepared Van Beusekom for the sight of one of the world's best forwards breaking towards her at full speed--not even any pre-game advice from Harvard's former goaltender.
"What information can you give?" Springer said. "She might shoot, she might deke, she might pass. All you can do is play hard and do all the little things right. Over 90 percent of the time it worked out for [Van Beusekom] today."
In the game's final minutes, the Harvard forwards helped to preserve Ruddock's shutout in the best way possible--they kept the puck in the Princeton end and scored two more goals.
Harvard's third goal came on its final power play of the afternoon. After endless cycling of the puck, Botterill found herself stationed in the deep left corner of the ice. Yards away from any defender, she darted unobstructed towards the net. With a variety of options to choose from as she strode into the crease, she took the easiest one--slipping the puck inside the left pipe.
Botterill one-timed a pass at the edge of the crease from Shewchuk to give Harvard a four-goal lead and leave the pair with identical statistics--two goals and two assists--for the afternoon.
Springer, the Crimson's top goalkeeper for three seasons after transferring from Middlebury, returned to Bright in her new post as assistant head coach with the Princeton Tigers.
Springer was a successful two-sport athlete at Harvard, posting a 49-13-3 record as Crimson goaltender over three seasons, including the national championship season of 1999. She was a key part of two Ivy League-champion softball teams, leading the 2000 team in hitting with a .379 average.
Approaching graduation, Springer considered a wide range of options for her immediate future.
"I applied for some jobs teaching history at some private high schools in the states," Springer said. "When it came down to it, it was actually between going to Calgary and the Olympic Oval and playing for the year, and taking the job at Princeton."
Springer's former coach was pleased with her present situation. Naturally, her recent playing status kept her from earning a paid position at Harvard.
"We like to have a bit of a gap between the kids that come out of the program right away so there's not that closeness between the coaching staff and the players," Stone said. "I'm happy for her. She seems to be real happy and they're very pleased with her at Princeton, so it's a good fit."
Coaching has turned out to be a rewarding profession thus far for Springer, and her abilities in scouting, recruiting and coaching have been a boon to the staff.
"It's different [from playing], but it's definitely been fun so far," Springer said. "I think it will only get better."
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