Playing its last game before starting a key stretch of games that will see the Crimson play three ranked opponents in the span of five days, the Harvard women’s hockey team (11-7-1, 8-5-1 ECAC) broke a three game losing streak by defeating conference foe Dartmouth (4-13-3, 4-7-3), 2-0, at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
The Crimson offense chipped away at the Big Green defense and goalkeeper Robyn Chemago, firing a season high 40 shots at the junior from Slave Lake, Alberta after failing to break the 30 shot barrier in its last eight games.
Sophomore forward Karly Heffernan got the scoring started for Harvard with a great individual effort in the first stanza. After classmate Dani Krzyszczyk found the forward near the center, Heffernan made her way down the ice, juking the Dartmouth defenders before firing a shot into the far corner.
“As I was going down the ice I just needed to get a shot off,” Heffernan said. “The [defender] was closing me out to the boards, so I just took the puck around her and chipped the puck towards the net and it went in…it needed to happen early on in the game.”
The sophomore’s fourth goal of the season was part of an offensive onslaught that saw the Crimson outshoot the Big Green 14-4 in the first period.
Harvard continued to pile the pressure early in the second stanza, as the Crimson dominated the boards and kept Dartmouth in its own defensive zone following a Dartmouth penalty.
While the Big Green ultimately killed the penalty, the siren went off just a few seconds later as Harvard doubled its advantage thanks to another goal from the second unit.
Junior blueliner Abbey Frazer and sophomore forward Lexie Laing played the puck back and forth before Frazer found Laing outside the crease following a controlling possession around the boards. Laing fired a shot at goal that snuck past Chemago and trickled into the goal for her fifth goal of the season.
“Our second line did a tremendous job today,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “Lexie Laing did very well in all three zones, she hustled, she back pressured.”
Though the Dartmouth attack sparked back to life, the Crimson kept the Big Green in check for the rest of the game. Captain goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer recorded her 17th career shutout and tallied 23 saves while her teammates helped out by blocking 13 Dartmouth shots. Harvard ultimately outshot its opponents by a 40-23 margin. This was the fifth shutout of the year for the team.
While the Crimson’s victory–paired with results from around the league–puts the team in fourth place in the ECAC going into games against conference leaders Quinnipiac and Princeton, Stone believes the team still has plenty of work to do. One of the biggest issues the team has had to deal with is turnovers. Losing possession of the puck–particularly in the neutral and defensive zones–has disrupted the Harvard attack on multiple occasions and left them vulnerable to counterattacks.
Though the Crimson was not punished for its mistakes against the Big Green, turning the puck over could be a big issue once the stretch of the schedule during which the team faces ranked opponents.
Lack of cohesion within the lines has also come to be a weakness for Harvard. While Stone and her assistants have shifted the units around to find a formation that clicks almost seamlessly, it has proved difficult to form lines that garner the ideal results. Injuries have been one of the leading forces behind the necessity to try different combinations, as the team has gone to the bench more often since returning from winter break.
“I know we can play better,” Stone said. “We can ask more of ourselves individually and collectively. We turn the puck over so much. We put lines together that we think are going to have great jam and great energy, and it’s not clicking right now.”
With conference games coming up against Quinnipiac and Princeton–both ranked in the top-ten–as well as a Beanpot matchup with top-ranked Boston College, the Crimson will need to fix these mistakes if it wishes to sweep its opponents and re-establish itself as one of the elite teams in the nation.
While the team will have a week to get ready for its upcoming opponents, the victory over Dartmouth gives Harvard some much needed momentum heading into a potential season-defining stretch.
“This game was one of the biggest ones of the year so far.” Heffernan said. “Getting our momentum back, we were on a three game losing streak so being able to get this win going into a tough weekend…it was huge for us, getting back into our game.”
Staff writer Julio Fierro can be reached at email@example.com
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