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The postseason has returned to Bright Hockey Center, and on Friday, the Harvard women’s hockey team came out to make a statement.
The second-seeded Crimson (17-10-4) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period, cruising to a 6-1 win over seventh-seeded St. Lawrence (16-18-2) in the first game of their best-of-three quarterfinal series.
“I thought that’s exactly what we needed to do—come out flying, put up four goals in the first period,” sophomore Jillian Dempsey said. “You’ve got to come out fast, and you’ve got to come out hungry, and that’s exactly what we did.”
It took just 1:28 for Harvard to get on the scoreboard, putting the first shot of the game in the back of the net.
Freshman Lyndsey Fry took a pass from classmate Marissa Gedman and put a shot on net from the left circle. Saints netminder Maxie Weisz deflected the puck with her left pad, and Dempsey charged in to pound the rebound into the open right side of the net.
After killing off an early-period power play, the Crimson stayed in the driver’s seat, doubling its lead less than seven minutes into the period.
Catching St. Lawrence in transition, tri-captain Kate Buesser pushed the puck ahead to sophomore Josephine Pucci, who beat her defender to skate in alone on Weisz. Pucci stayed composed, going five-hole for the 2-0 lead.
“I think we were really excited to start playing,” Dempsey said. “It’s playoff hockey, so we were just raring to go right at the beginning. And once one pops, the others kind of fall into place. We just kept putting pucks on net and pressuring them.”
Harvard got solid production from all four of its lines, with the fourth line getting in on the fun at the 8:38 mark of the first.
Tri-captain Leanna Coskren created space in the right corner, feeding the puck to junior Alisa Baumgartner at the point. Baumgartner’s hard shot was tipped in by freshman Elizabeth Parker, making it a three-goal lead.
Just over a minute later, a set of perfect tic-tac-toe passing from the third line pushed the score to 4-0. Gedman crossed the puck to freshman Kalley Armstrong, who one-timed a pass onto sophomore Whitney Kennedy’s stick. At the right post, Kennedy put the puck just inside the pipe.
With just over 12 minutes gone in the game, the Crimson had amassed a lead that seemed insurmountable.
“Anytime you can get ahead, it’s good,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “It’s also sort of a blessing and a curse. You’ve got to hang onto that 4-0 lead, and sometimes that gets people a little apprehensive.”
A string of penalties marked the last minutes of the first, and on the final penalty—on Fry for high sticking with 1:35 to play in the frame—the Saints broke through.
Brooke Fernandez put a shot on goal from the point, creating a scrum in front of the net. After a few missed attempts, Vanessa Emond poked it past sophomore goaltender Laura Bellamy to put St. Lawrence on the scoreboard before the break.
The Saints rode that momentum into the second period, a frame that was dominated by penalties and strong defense from the Crimson blueliners.
“We can never count out a team like St. Lawrence,” Dempsey said. “They just kept playing, and it didn’t really help us that we kept getting penalties, because we kept giving them chances to get back. But I think that was good momentum for us to shut them down on those power plays.”
The Crimson had to kill off four penalties in the second, including a stretch of 49 seconds of 5-on-3 play. But led by Bellamy’s 14 second-period stops, including several athletic body saves, Harvard was able to preserve its three-goal lead—and almost add to it.
Sophomore Kaitlin Spurling put the puck in the net on a shorthanded opportunity, but the goal was called back due to high sticking.
“I think the second period was feeling each other out a little bit more,” Stone said. “[Bellamy] made some big saves...She did her job. I want her to stay aggressive, I want her to stay sharp, no matter what’s going on.”
The Crimson was in better offensive control in the third period, getting good chances in an early 5-on-3 situation. But it took almost 13 minutes for Harvard to light the lamp again.
Tri-captain Liza Ryabkina skated around the perimeter and found linemate Dempsey down low. Dempsey executed a nice deke and swung the puck into the back of the net for her second goal of the afternoon.
“I was just ecstatic that she saw me there, because I kind of just snuck in,” Dempsey said. “I was just there to put it away—she did all the work and made a beautiful pass. It’s awesome playing with her.”
After St. Lawrence pulled Weisz with just over five minutes to play, senior Katharine Chute iced the game with an empty-netter to push the final score to 6-1. Nicolien Bongaerts replaced Weisz in net for the last 4:09 of the game, making one save.
—Staff writer Kate Leist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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