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Down a goal to No. 2 Minnesota (13-2-0, 8-2-0 WCHA) with 2:22 to play in the third period, the No. 9 Harvard women’s hockey team (5-3-0, 5-2-0 ECAC) earned a power-play opportunity after a checking call landed the Gophers’ senior defenseman Anne Schleper in the penalty box. But, despite launching four shots in a hectic final few minutes, the Crimson could not tally an equalizer, as Minnesota took the first of two contests between the two squads, 2-1, Saturday night at the Bright Hockey Center.
“They have a good [penalty] kill,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “We had a couple great chances right off the bat on the power play in the goalmouth, but they did a good job with coverage. … We had our chances. We’d like to manage the end of the game situation a little bit better than we did, but that’s the way it goes.”
Although the Gophers earned a 31-27 overall advantage in shots on goal, play was back-and-forth in last night’s physical battle between the two top-ranked teams. The Crimson had two power plays early in the first period, but until just over 18 minutes had expired in the game, Harvard and Minnesota had each notched five shots on goal and netted zero in an even first period.
“I thought it was a great hockey game,” Stone said. “I was very pleased with how our kids played. Minnesota’s really good; they’re quick; they’re skilled. We were able to do the things we wanted to, and we battled hard.”
“Coming off of the loss to Dartmouth [Wednesday night], we were all just excited to come out and play,” sophomore defenseman Marissa Gedman added. “I think the whole team and the coaches were happy with how we played today. Obviously we want to come back and get a win, but we’d rather play our best and lose than play ok and win.”
Unfortunately for the Crimson, the sixth Gopher shot on frame proved to be lethal, as Minnesota senior forward Emily West sent a well-placed left-hander past Harvard junior goaltender Laura Bellamy at 18:06. West converted the game’s first tally after receiving the puck from sophomore forward Sarah Davis and senior forward Sarah Erikson.
After a scoreless second period that saw Harvard successfully kill off two penalties, the Gophers nearly stretched their lead to two at the beginning of the third frame. After just 16 seconds of play in the third, Minnesota put the puck in the back of the Crimson net on a tough-angle shot from the left side. But the goal was called back after a review of the play due to a movement of the goal frame before the puck crossed the line.
“If the net’s off before the puck goes in, it’s no goal,” Gedman said.
At 12:03 in the third, the Gophers tallied the assurance goal they were looking for after a tripping violation on junior defenseman Josephine Pucci followed by a delay-of-game penalty on Bellamy gave Minnesota a two-man advantage. Almost immediately after the second penalty, Schleper corralled a pass from sophomore forward Amanda Kessel after a faceoff on the left side and netted her second goal of the season.
“We have to clean up a few situations that we could do better at,” Stone said. “But overall, I’d rather play that way than we played last Wednesday night, and the kids know that.”
The Crimson finally got on the board at 14:25, as Gedman slammed a shot from the blue line off of a pass from classmate Kalley Armstrong, putting Harvard back within a goal.
“It was just a good shot, and it got through,” Stone said. “Good things happen at the net if you’re getting shots through. That’s what we’ve been trying to harp on, and [Gedman hit] a nice low shot.”
Despite scoring opportunities on both sides of the ice in the final seven minutes of the game—including the Crimson’s final power play of the evening—neither team could capitalize on its late chances.
Bellamy continued her strong play in the net last night, tallying 29 saves between the pipes for Harvard.
The Crimson boasts a bit of extra motivation for this weekend’s two-day non-conference battle, as eight players on Harvard’s roster of 18 hail from Minnesota.
“[Our players from Minnesota] are definitely excited to be playing kids that they’ve grown up playing with,” Gedman said. “That fueled some of their fire. … That makes it an even bigger game for us, but no matter what, we’re coming to play.”
The Crimson and Minnesota met again Sunday afternoon in a rematch of this battle of top-10 teams.
“[The game Saturday night] was a dogfight,” Stone said. “It was great. But again, we put ourselves in a position to win and then unfortunately didn’t get it done.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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