Women's Hockey Eyes National Crown

After 3:14 had elapsed in overtime in the 2012 ECAC semifinal matchup between the Harvard women’s hockey team and St. Lawrence, Saints forward Kelly Sabatine snuck the puck past then-junior goaltender Laura Bellamy to propel her team into the ECAC finals with a 2-1 win.

For the Crimson, the goal marked the abrupt end of an otherwise successful campaign in which Harvard climbed as high as No. 7 in national polls on its way to a record of 22-9-1, including a 17-4-1 mark in conference play.

According to Crimson players, a chance at retribution for last year’s disappointing finish is added motivation for a team hoping to take its second national championship in program history—a feat Harvard accomplished in 1999.

“Every year we think about what we did last year and how we can improve upon it,” senior Hilary Hayssen says. “For all of us, every year that our season has been cut short—the last three—has provided motivation.”

With the graduation of just one senior—captain Alisa Baumgartner’12—from a squad that ended the 2011-12 regular season ranked second in the ECAC, the Crimson looks poised to pick up where it left off and make a run at both the conference and national championships.

“I think the kids are excited,” Harvard coach Katey Stone says. “They’ve worked so hard; they’ve been focused; and they come prepared every day. [We’re] pretty excited to get going and see what they’re capable of.”

The Crimson—which was picked to finish in the No. 2 spot by the ECAC coaches’ poll and currently claims a No. 9 national ranking—returns its top two scorers in co-captain Jillian Dempsey and junior forward Lyndsey Fry. The duo combined for 49 goals and 41 assists last year, with the senior holding a slight edge in both statistical categories.

Dempsey—who was a finalist for last year’s ECAC Player of the Year award—nabbed one of six spots on the 2012-13 preseason all-conference team.

After amassing an impressive .919 save percentage on 679 stops last season, Bellamy, a co-captain, will see plenty of action between the pipes again this year. Unlike last year, when she was the only goaltender on the roster, she will likely have help from freshman goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer—one of seven rookies on the Harvard squad.

Freshman forwards Miye D’Oench and Mary Parker will also likely have an immediate impact on the ice.

“We have four great lines, and a lot more depth this year than last year,” Dempsey says. “There’s a sense of urgency in going to the net and finishing. We’re hungry, so we’re going to be going to the net hard and getting shots from everywhere.”

Although the Crimson returns 14 of its players from last season, adding some much—needed experience to its youthful 2011-12 roster, Harvard will play out its 2012-13 campaign without last year’s alternate captain—defenseman Josephine Pucci—or defenseman Marissa Gedman, who are both out for the year due to injury.

“It’s really tough, especially when you lose not only two kids who are great kids and great players but [are also playing] strong roles in the program,” Stone says. “September was really rocky for everyone.”

“The silver lining was that, when we started Oct. 5, we already knew they were gone,” she continues. “And there was no grey area. This is who we have; let’s go. From that moment on, or maybe even a little bit before, everyone knew that [we needed to] bring ourselves together and…make this thing happen.”

Among those looking to step up to help fill the void left by Pucci and Gedman—who led Harvard defensemen with 16 and 19 assists, respectively—will be sophomores Michelle Picard and Sarah Edney, both of whom played key roles for the Crimson last season.