When junior goalie Molly Tissenbaum skated out onto the ice on Friday night, she was making just her second career start for the No. 8/7 Harvard women’s ice hockey team (1-1-1, 1-1-1 ECAC) against the 2014 national champions Clarkson (9-0-2, 0-0-2).
Cue the nerves?
Tissenbaum was already in the zone.
“I knew it was going to be a good night when my one-on-one shooter [junior defender] Briana Mastel and I had hit all of our targets in the warm-up before the game,” Tissenbaum said. “When all five shots end up where they should be, it’s going to be a good night. After that, it’s just a matter of keeping it simple.”
Sixty-five minutes of play later, Tissenbaum headed back to the locker room having shut out the fourth-ranked team in the country, marking the first time in her Crimson career she had finished a game with a shutout.
Before Friday, Clarkson had averaged a strong 4.5 goals per game, with its leading scorer Cayley Mercer already at an impressive 18 points.
But the Golden Knights drew a blank in Cambridge, with the impassable Tissenbaum making a perfect 23 saves on all 23 attempts.
The game was a tight affair, with both goaltenders proving too much for the offenses.
The defensive battle eventually ended in a scoreless tie.
Any mistake would have surely meant curtains. But in this pressure cooked situation, Tissenbaum was not fazed.
“At that point, it’s a matter of reaction,” Tissenbaum said. “And doing what I’ve been doing for my whole life as a goalie, which is focus on each puck as if it’s the biggest save of the game.”
With this mentality, the junior goalie was able to rise up to the challenge in just her ninth game in two years.
But this came as no surprise to her teammates.
Tissenbaum has a past littered with injuries and in particular was out of the sport for six months from a concussion.
She came back strong and has continued to put herself on the line for the team.
“We have full confidence in her,” co-captain Michelle Picard said.
While the goalie in any sport should be the automatic first name on the team sheet, the Crimson has started all three goaltenders this year in just four games.
Senior Emerance Maschmeyer, the regular starter last season, was jjust became the 10th Crimson athlete to be elected as an All-American.
The other junior goalie, Brianna Laing, was considered the second string last year, having started seven contests.
But on Friday, those at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center rose to applaud Tissenbaum at the start of the contest.
She did not disappoint, with a flurry of glove saves late in the third period.
Her efforts ultimately led to a stalemate and the shutout, the best prize for any goalie.
However, the junior goaltender was quick to recognize her teammates on a night when she was in the spotlight.
“All three of us are able to play and are able to play well at this level, but it’s always a battle to start,” Tissenbaum said. “It’s the best kind of competition because I know that I have to bring my best everyday, but I also know that Bri and Em have my back, just as I have their backs when they play. I owe a lot of who I am as a goalie to those two.”
The goalies have propelled each other to excellence.
But perhaps the greatest significance in Tissenbaum’s performance is the assurance that Harvard has three talented and battle proven goalies available each game.
The trio poses one of those cliché great problems to have for Crimson coach Katey Stone. The goalies’ performance has caused a selection issue.
Harvard is spoiled for choice when it comes to the goaltender position. But the result can only be positive.
“No matter who is in net we always have a chance to win the game,” Picard said. “Knowing that we have that rock star performance back there is great to know. Molly stepped up big time [Friday night].”
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