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The Good Times and the Bad

Last year, Harvard took its season to the very brink by making the National Championship game, but ultimately lost and ended a bright season on a disappointing note

By Gabriel M. Velez, Crimson Staff Writer

There are only two emotions that one can carry off the ice after a 6-2 loss in the National Championship.

Disappointment and pride.

The Harvard women’s hockey team finished an incredible season last year by falling by that very same tally in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game to Minnesota—a team they had not seen all season.

“Now, we know what it takes to win a championship and, on the flip side, we know what it feels like to lose one,” senior Ashley Banfield said.

Last year, the Crimson jumped out with a bang when they defeated Division I newcomer Union by a combined score of 24-0 over two games.

By putting up such amazing offensive numbers while missing two of their stars—then sophomore Julie Chu and Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04—Harvard proved that its explosiveness with the puck was going to be a trademark of the team all season long.

With this explosiveness and hard work, the Crimson made it as far as they did in an unexpected fashion and while fielding a smaller-than-usual team.

“We went to the Frozen Four with 17 players and it didn’t hurt us a bit,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “Last year, as we said, we just need to be one goal better than the other team.”

On the steam of consistent and constant scoring, the Crimson took an undefeated record—11 wins—into Minnesota to face off with the team that had defeated Harvard with an overtime goal in the 2002 National Championship, Minnesota-Duluth.

Over the two game set the two teams played in the middle of December, the powerhouses fought to a gritty 2-2 tie and then the Crimson offense took over and won the second one 7-2.

“It wasn’t until Christmas and we were playing Duluth that I thought, wow, we are pretty good,” Stone said. “I wasn’t sure up until that point.”

The win convinced the hockey world that Harvard was the real thing, and it entered the new year with the No. 2 ranking in the country behind Minnesota.

The celebration was short-lived, however, with the next weekend’s opponent—then No. 3 Dartmouth—looming on the horizon.

In front of 1,921 fans in the Bright Hockey Center, the Big Green handed its ECAC rival its first loss of the season—a thrilling 2-1, come-from-behind affair in which Harvard let in two unanswered tallies in the third period.

“Our biggest rivalry isn’t Dartmouth. I think Dartmouth’s biggest rivalry is Harvard—there is a mental difference there,” Stone said. “It’s one big game on our schedule of many big games.”

Following a break in hockey for first semester finals, the Crimson dropped a high scoring contest to Princeton, 6-3 and looked as if it might slide down from the all-important top four spots in the national rankings.

Harvard really asserted its status as a national contender during a stretch in mid-February when it defeated Brown in overtime, and then followed that with a two-game sweep of ECAC challenger and then-No. 3 St. Lawrence.

The two victories moved the Crimson into the lead in the conference, which it never relinquished.

Once again, however, Harvard had to turn its attention quickly to the second game of the season in one of the best rivalries in collegiate women’s hockey.

One week after Harvard took the No. 1 ranking in the country, the Big Green passionately defeated the Crimson in a tight, down-to-the-wire contest.

A game that saw Ruggiero ejected for allegedly kicking an opposing player who was on the ice with her skate, ended with a goal from Gillian Apps with 1:10 remaining to give Dartmouth the 3-2 victory.

After that road bump up in Hanover, Harvard got back up on its horse and did not lose again until the National Championship.

After surviving a close game with Yale—which took a last minute goal by current tri-captain Nicole Corriero to win it 1-0 for the Crimson—Harvard won out in the ECAC playoffs.

The closest game of this stretch was the quarterfinal match-up against Brown. While the Bears’ Jessica Link had come close to converting on a couple of 1-on-1 opportunities in overtime, ultimately the Crimson freshman Katie Johnston ended the game by throwing the puck towards the net from the far right side and getting the lucky bounce into the net.

In the Frozen Four, Harvard faced off against a familiar foe in the first round, defeating St. Lawrence for the fourth time on the season.

The championship game featured two fluid and quick teams facing off, and Minnesota’s amazing first line was able to get the better of the Crimson, scoring four goals in the three periods.

“We are happy with our ECAC championship, but losing in the finals two years in a row stings a bit,” Chu said.

But don’t think for a minute the Crimson will come out this season with an emotional hangover. The team claims the loss last season has only been a motivator.

“To be so close to achieving your goal, and lose—two years in a row for some of us—only makes you hungrier to do it the next year,” Corriero said. “We know what we want, and we know we are capable of getting it.”

—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at

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