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For the third time in as many years, the No. 6/7 Harvard women’s hockey team came tantalizingly close to an ECAC championship, only to watch it slip away once again.
“That one stung,” co-captain Jillian Dempsey said. “But it is amazing to know that we have another chance to make a go at things.”
Despite falling to Cornell, 2-1, in the tournament final, the news was not all bad for the Crimson (24-3, 17-3-2 ECAC), who took home individual honors and an all-important NCAA tournament berth.
After getting to the ECAC final by beating Clarkson and Dartmouth, Harvard fell to the Big Red in a trying back-and-forth affair. The regular-season champions outshot the Crimson, 34-19, en route to their third ECAC title in four years.
Despite being on the losing end, freshman Emerance Maschmeyer took home some hardware. The goaltender was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Maschmeyer, who has seen the bulk of the playing time lately, allowed four goals in four tournament games while recording two shutouts.
“She’s been incredible for us all year,” Dempsey said. “We set the bar really high and she has done more than we asked of her.”
Goaltending has been a Crimson strong suit all season. Co-captain Laura Bellamy and freshman Maschmeyer have combined to record a 1.14 goals against average. The combined mark is good for second in the country.
“They made the job easier on me,” Maschmeyer said of her teammates.
The freshman was beat with just minutes left in regulation. The go-ahead goal came off the stick of Jessica Campbell who was setup after the Harvard defense blocked a shot in close. Maschmeyer was out of position to make the stop after she came up to stop Campbell’s first attempt.
The opportunity came on the man-advantage after junior forward Kaitlin Spurling was called for interference.
Cornell capitalized against a Crimson penalty kill that had staved off five power plays and a five-on-three in the first two periods.
“Our penalty kill was great,” Dempsey said. “We always have a lot of confidence in it. Tonight, it was about discipline. It was about grinding it out.”
The nation’s best unit had experienced tremendous success, stopping its opponents on the 21 attempts prior to the broken play.
Harvard could manage just one shot to Cornell’s 10, but Maschmeyer handled each Cornell advance in a scoreless second period that featured multiple power-play opportunities.
“We played hard and put ourselves in a position where we still have a chance,” Dempsey said.
The Crimson regained its composure in the third period, edging its opponents 11-10 in shots on net. With the chance to take the lead, Harvard mounted several offensive opportunities in odd-man situations.
“It was competitive all the way to the very end,” Dempsey said. “In the end, it didn’t bounce our way,”
The lone Crimson point of the night came on a Samantha Reber find. The sophomore won the faceoff and tapped the puck along to sophomore forward Hillary Crowe, who wristed it toward Cornell’s Lauren Slebodnick. The equalizer bounced off the goaltender’s pads before arcing into the back of the net.
Before the goal, two third-period power plays presented opportunities for Harvard. The Crimson took four shots on net including one from freshman forward Mary Parker. Parker led the way with five shots on net.
“It’s of course frustrating but we should be proud of how we played,” Maschmeyer said. “And we have a lot to look forward to.”
The loss meant that Harvard had to wait it out to see whether it would make the NCAA tournament, which culminates in Minnesota.
Soon after the loss, it was revealed that Harvard’s resume was strong enough to nab one of the four at-large bids in the eight-team field.
The environment was raucous for a Crimson squad that made the trip up to Cornell’s Lynah Rink.
“It gave us a lot of momentum,” Maschmeyer said of the atmosphere. “Cornell tried to pack the house tonight. It was just another reason to go out there and give it our all.”
Harvard will play No. 4 Boston College in next weekend’s quarterfinals.
“We just got to stick to what we know,” Maschmeyer said.
—Staff writer Daniel A. Grafstein can be reached at email@example.com.
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