Finishing up the second half of a road trip, Harvard women’s hockey headed to Ithaca, N.Y., to face old foes No. 6/6 Cornell. Cornell hadn’t lost at home rink Lynah since early November heading into the weekend matchup. In the Big Red, Harvard also faced an ECAC top-five goaltender in junior Marlène Boissonnault (1.96 GAA, .922% SV). Several things were on the line for the Crimson: remaining undefeated in Ivy League play, and snapping a two-game losing skid.
Cornell (11-6-1, 8-4 ECAC), however, handed the Crimson (8-7-1, 6-5-1) its first Ivy League loss on Saturday afternoon, in a 4-3 contest that went down to the last four minutes. Early in the second period, it appeared as though the Big Red had put the game away. Senior forward Brianna Veerman picked up the rebound on a shot from senior defender Sarah Knee, and beat Harvard sophomore netminder Beth Larcom glove-side to give Cornell the 4-1 lead. Larcom (2.56 GAA, .910% SV), normally the Crimson’s go-to goalie, was pulled in favor of freshman Becky Dutton.
“At that point we had nothing to lose,” said junior defender Kaitlin Tse.
Down by three, Harvard played a hard second frame that paid off four minutes after Veerman’s tally. Sophomore forward Kat Hughes backhanded the puck into a chaotic net from the slot at the 8:26 mark. The play underwent a lengthy review before the goal was conclusively awarded to Hughes, bringing her season total to a team-leading nine tallies.
“We knew it went in,” Tse said. “That was a momentum changer for us. We were like, ‘Okay, we got a second one, now let’s go get a third.’”
Hopes of a comeback were further fueled as, with 3:53 left in regulation, freshman forward Becca Gilmore went in alone on three Big Red players, and chipped the biscuit past Boissonnault to bring the Crimson within one. Gilmore also assisted on Harvard’s first goal, rookie blueliner Emma Buckles’s first career tally, in the first period. With her two apples on the night, Gilmore now leads the team with 17 points, and also has a team-leading six multi-point games.
“Everyone did their job,” said Tse of the comeback effort. “We played with speed and our forecheck was high-pressure.”
Nevertheless, the Crimson fell short, just as it had the night before at Colgate. Cornell dominated the last 20 minutes by a shot margin of 14-3, and Harvard just didn’t have the chance to wrest momentum away from the home team. Overall, that appeared to be the Crimson’s problem through the game. The Big Red peppered the net with shots and drew five penalties, ending with a power play efficiency of 20%. The lack of discipline on Harvard’s part was exacerbated by the fact that the team also went 0-for-2 on its own 5-on-4s. The team now hasn’t scored on the power play in its last three games and 14 opportunities.
“[In the last three minutes], we pulled the goalie, it was six-on-five,” Tse said. “We had good opportunities there....but the first period was definitely their game, and they capitalized on that.”
Apart from Veerman, Cornell’s goal-scorers were sophomore blueliner Jaime Bourbonnais, and forwards freshman Madlynne Mills and sophomore Kristin O’Neill. Mills’s power play notch gives her a team-leading 11 goals, while O’Neill’s shorthanded tally bumped her team-leading point total to 24, good for third in the ECAC.
The road ahead holds more ranked opponents. The Crimson next takes the ice against No. 2/2 Boston College, a team stacked with three of the country’s top-five point-getters, including freshman sensation Daryl Watts. Harvard will look to find solutions to top competition in the few days before it faces BC on Jan. 16.
“If we’re able to come out with the intensity we ended with and not get down early on, we’re going to be a tough team to play against,” Hughes said. “It was a really great weekend in terms of our energy as a group, but we just need to find a way to translate that into wins.”
—Staff writer Stuti R. Telidevara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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