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SCHENECTADY, N.Y.—For 95.5 minutes, co-captain and goaltender Katie Germain did everything in her power to help the fourth-seeded Brown Bears pull off the tournament’s biggest upset over the first-seeded and No. 2 Harvard women’s hockey team.
But after nearly four hours, the Bears were left pondering the goal that almost wasn’t after freshman Katie Johnston and the Crimson ended its season with a 2-1 double-overtime victory to advance to the ECAC Championship game.
“It’s a shame to lose a game like that, it’s a shame one team had to lose,” said Brown coach Digit Murphy. “When I play Harvard, I’m kind of sick and tired of it being us. I have to take my hat off to [Germain] for that performance.”
After the marathon match, even the Crimson left with a new respect for its Ivy League foes.
“They were quick, they took care of the puck, they stretched it much more today then they have in the other two games that they have played us,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “My hat’s off to Brown.”
In the end, Johnston found Germain’s five-hole and hit the jackpot—her second game-winner against Brown this season.
With five-and-a-half minutes left in the second overtime period, Johnston sent the puck from the far right side of the ice to in front of the net, looking for her teammates to bang it home.
Germain, who played solidly for over 90 minutes between the pipes, stopped the puck underneath her, but in an attempt to find it, kicked the puck behind her and into the net with her skate for the game-winning score. Frustrated with this unsuccessful last effort, Germain collapsed on her back for several moments.
“I just talked to her and she said ‘I don’t know what to think right now, I’m just numb, I can’t believe its over,’” Murphy said. “When you’re in a game and the period ends and you know it’s 3 to 1, you can feel it coming, you know that you played a bad game. Or you know you played a great game when you win, but to just have it [stopped] dead in your tracks like that, I think it takes a little while to absorb.”
“To have a puck like that go in—to make the kinds of saves she did today and then to have a sort of knuckleball go in—a little squigger—that’s tough,” Stone said. “Again, it’s [about] finding a way to win—our team continues to find a way to do that, which makes me feel really good.”
Throughout the two overtime periods, Harvard controlled the pace of the game by keeping the puck in the offensive zone and generating chance after chance.
After junior Ashley Banfield’s injury caused a lengthy delay and emotional break in the flow of the game, Harvard came out with renewed energy on the power play.
The result was a flood of shots in the last few minutes of the period, with co-captain Angela Ruggiero and sophomore Julie Chu throwing a couple of shots on net from point blank range.
“When you get down to the stretch of a game like that when it’s so tense and emotions are flying and people are so excited to be in overtime hockey—it’s really mind over matter,” Ruggiero said. “Once you gain momentum it really carries over.”
Junior winger Nicole Corriero kept the momentum going and led the charge out of the locker room by beginning the second extra frame with rushes on Germain off the opening faceoffs.
After two goals in the first period, the play settled down into a back and forth affair of which neither team could completely grab a hold.
A stifling Brown forecheck forced Harvard into whirling the puck back behind its own net many times, slowing down the pace of play and keeping the Crimson from throwing shot after shot on goal.
In fact, Harvard only managed 29 shots on goal through three periods of play—one of the fewest totals this season. The level of offensive play climaxed in the second period as Ruggiero set the tone right off the opening faceoff by flinging a shot from the center line.
Brown had the perfect chance to put itself in the driver’s seat late in the second period when junior Jessica Link—who was coming off a hot streak in which she tallied three goals and an assist in last weekend’s series against Princeton—found herself with the puck right in front of sophomore goaltender Ali Boe. Before Link could lift the puck over the right leg of the sprawled out goalie, Boe pounced on it with her glove and stuffed Brown’s opportunity.
A period earlier, the explosive Link had broken through the Crimson defense to create the Bears’ lone goal.
“I just kind of took a slapshot at the net and it hit off one of the Harvard defensemen,” Link said. “I went to it and I saw Keaton [Zucker] out of the corner of my eye, cutting to the net, and I just gave it to her.”
Harvard’s first goal came on its early push to open the game. Five minutes into the first frame, Ruggiero took the puck up the right side of the ice and had her shot from the side blocked by Germain. Corriero shot the bouncing rebound again—with the puck flying up in the air, over Germain, and landing right on Brown’s goal line. But before the referees called a goal, in swooped Lindsey Glennon to save the day—only to find Harvard freshman Jennifer Sifers who passed off to free Ruggiero on the right side of the net for an easy open wrister. Ninety minutes later, the Crimson put through its second score of the day, capping an emotionally and physically exhausting affair that brought them to the brink of its second ECAC tournament championship.
“I don’t think this takes anything out of us; it’s playoff hockey, and sometimes you have to go to the end of the world to go to the next day,” Stone said.
—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at email@example.com.
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