No Beanpot Breakthrough

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Richard F. Taylor

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BOSTON—All good things must come to an end, and so too did the Harvard women’s hockey team’s seven-game winning streak. At the hands of No. 7 Boston College, Harvard lost its Beanpot championship title in a fiercely fought 1-0 match last night at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena.

Despite a scoreless first two periods, the Eagles (20-7-3, 12-5-1 Hockey East) managed their close win thanks to a shorthanded shot from junior Kelli Stack midway through the third period. The Crimson (13-8-3, 12-4-2 ECAC) struggled to net the equalizer while the last seconds on the clock ticked away.

In the defining moment of the game, BC’s Allie Thunstrom broke away from the Eagles’ goal into Crimson territory. Chased by Harvard’s tri-captain Sarah Vaillancourt, Thunstrom slipped a pass to Stack, who sent it to the right of Harvard goalie Christina Kessler into the back of the net.

“I took that extra step out to cut down that angle on [Thunstrom], and unfortunately she was able to squeeze a pass across to Stack, and Stack put it in,” Kessler said.

Despite reclaiming the prestigious Beanpot title they won in 2007, the Eagles had a tough time breaking away from Harvard in the first periods. Prior to the last 20 minutes, the Crimson showed force on the offensive end. Aggressive right from the start, Harvard took its first shot on Schaus in the opening minute, following that up with 18 more shots in the frame.

In the second period, the Crimson picked up the tempo as both teams’ frustration with the score began to show. But as the pace increased, so too did the amount of penalties against Harvard. With only nine shots on goal, Harvard saw five of its players hit the penalty box as the Eagles took 14 shots against Kessler, the most of any period for Boston College.

“We put the ball back in BC’s court for a while in the second period, and we staved off a ton of pressure, killed off a 5-on-3 and so we felt good about that,” Crimson coach Katey Stone said. “Tough luck is what happened, and they capitalized on our mistakes. That’s what they do well.”

But despite controlling the puck for the majority of the first two periods, Harvard could not get past Boston College’s main force: junior goalie Molly Schaus. Schaus again performed at her best during the Beanpot, notching 40 saves against the Crimson and unanimously winning the Bertagna Award for best goaltender.

“They’re a great team and to their credit they fought all the way through,” Kessler said. “I think we came out flying in the first period, and we tried all we could, but Molly Schaus played a great game for them.”

It was Stack, however, who put the Eagles on the scoreboard, receiving the tournament’s MVP award for her success.

“Stack and Allie are dangerous on a penalty kill and you know, if it wasn’t Stack, it was probably going to be Allie who put it in,” said Boston College coach Katie King. “They really find a way to block shots and get opportunities.”

Additionally, the Eagles made sure to put the pressure on Vaillancourt, who has defined the Crimson’s offense, scoring 16 goals this season and attempting three shots last night. Vaillancourt has been on a tear of late, with a hand in 13 of Harvard’s 14 goals last week.

“We saw what she did last week against BU, and we knew we couldn’t give her too much room,” Schaus said.

Not to be deterred, Kessler and the rest of the Crimson showed their own moments of brilliance as well. At the end of the night, Kessler managed 22 saves against the Eagles as her defense posted seven blocks of their own.

But it was not enough.

“There’s nothing a coach can say in a one-goal game when you lose the Beanpot championship, one you have tremendous pride in winning,” Stone said.

In preparation for Harvard’s upcoming games against ECAC rivals Cornell and Colgate this weekend, Stone suggested the best thing for her team is rest. “The key is, we’re playing great hockey right now,” she said. “We’re in a very different place than we were before Christmas...We might not have come up on the high side of tonight’s win, but we played very well and we want to continue to play well.”