Having been away from competition for three weeks due to final exams, the women's ice hockey team returned Saturday to face off against No. 4 Northeastern. The Huskies, one of the best defensive teams in the ECAC, took advantage of Harvard's hiatus by out-skating the Crimson and holding the ECAC's best offense to just one goal.
"We looked a little leg-weary," said Harvard Coach Katey Stone.
In addition to the three-week break, the Crimson also returned to the ice without sophomore Jennifer Botterill. Botterill, the starting right winger and Harvard's third leading scorer, is recovering from a nagging groin injury.
Without Botterill, "we are a little different team," Stone said.
Although Botterill will start skating Monday with the team during practice, Stone does not anticipate her return for the first round of the Beanpot against Boston University on Tuesday.
"She'll be alright after the weekend," Stone said.
The Crimson welcomed back two other starters as junior winger Tammy Shewchuk and sophomore defenseman Angela Ruggiero returned on Saturday morning, only hours before the game, from Toronto.
Shewchuk and Ruggiero were playing for Team Canada and Team USA, respectively, as the two teams faced off during the festivities surrounding this weekend's NHL All-Star game.
The Canadian women routed the U.S., 6-0, before a crowd of 14,658 at the Air Canada Centre.
On Saturday, however, Harvard and Northeastern both showed up at Bright Hockey Center with defense on their minds.
"Both teams played great defense," said Harvard senior goaltender Crystal Springer.
Unlike their offense-powered previous meeting, this second meeting was a defensive grudge match. On Jan 9th, Harvard captured a 5-3 win over Northeastern on the road.
On Saturday, though, neutral zone play dominated the game. The classic Harvard offense of fast breaks and crashing the net was mysteriously absent as the quick-skating Huskies prevented the Harvard offense from getting very many good opportunities to score.
At the end of regulation, Northeastern had outshot the Crimson, 30 to 25.
Harvard rallied in the overtime period to outshoot Northeastern seven to one but was unable to get the puck past Husky junior goaltender Erica Silva.
Both goalies posted impressive performances. Crimson netminder Crystal Springer turned away 30 shots while Silva stopped 31.
"This was a big game for Erica [Silva] to settle down against a high-power offense," said Northeastern Coach Heather Linstad.
Silva and Northeastern has come out of the rough month of January with a 2-3-1 record, allowing nine goals in a game against New Hampshire.
Emblematic of the defensive focus of the game, both scores came from blue-liners. On the power play with 4:00 minutes to go in the second period, freshman defenseman Jamie Hagerman fired a slapper from the center of the blue line. Silva reacted too late to the shot as Harvard forwards Shewchuk and junior Tara Dunn set up a screen for the shot.
Northeastern freshman defenseman Kim Greene tied the game in the third period with chip shot over the sprawling Springer.
Long Time No See
Harvard plays Boston University on Feb. 8 in the first round of the tournament, while Northeaster will take on Boston College.
BU is a club team, while B.C. is in the ECAC basement with a record of 1-14-1. Only the most unlikely of upsets will prevent a Northeastern-Harvard rematch in the finals on Harvard ice.
With the fiercely competitive spirit and physicality that both teams bring to the ice when they face off, all bets are off for their next meeting.
Saturday's game "sweetens the pot for the Beanpot in a week," she said.
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