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Women's Ice Hockey Returns Home Re-Energized for RPI, Union Contests

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The team celebrates after a goal in prior action vs. McGill at home.
Coming off of two tough losses against Wisconsin on the road, the Harvard women’s ice hockey team is looking to bounce back this weekend at home.

“The opportunity we have ahead of us is a big one,” sophomore forward Becca Gilmore said. “We’re going into the end of the first half of the season, and after the weekend we just had, there’s a new type of energy.”

Last weekend, the Crimson (2-5-1, 1-3-1 ECAC) lost two nail-biters against a stellar Badgers squad (15-1-0, 7-1 WCHA) that made the Frozen Four last year. Harvard took both games to overtime and held Wisconsin scoreless in two of the three periods of each game. Despite the losses, the Crimson emerged with the confidence of knowing it can compete with a top hockey team.

“Last weekend, our team saw the pace that we can play at and saw how much effort we need every single person on our team to put in,” offered Gilmore, the Wayland, Mass. native. “It gave us energy and excitement for the rest of the season.”

Harvard has also internalized the lessons it learned from last weekend’s close matchups.

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“Something that we’ve talked about as a team in preparation for this weekend draws off our play from last weekend,” junior forward Kat Hughes said. “Playing with a sense of urgency and utilizing our speed is something that we’re really focusing on going into the weekend.”

Gilmore agreed with the importance of speed going forward, and cited an increased pace of play as a way for the team to manufacture more goals.

“We’re really focusing on the pace that we’re setting and always being one step ahead,” she said. “This will be a good way to score some goals and get all the lines contributing to the scoreboard. That’s been a struggle this season, just finishing pucks, so I know that we’re focused on bearing down and being relentless.”

On Friday, the Crimson will take on the Rensselaer Engineers (4-7-4, 2-2-0 ECAC), and on Saturday, the Union Dutchwomen (2-10-2, 0-3-1 ECAC). Last season, Harvard picked up two wins against the Engineers and one win against the Dutchwomen.

Rensselaer is coming off of a loss and a tie to the University of New Hampshire last weekend. Senior Josefine Hansen, who picked up one goal on the weekend, and junior forward Blake Orosz are leading scorers on the Engineers team, with three and four goals, respectively.

Union is also looking to bounce back from a loss last weekend, falling to the Mercyhurst Lakers. Leading scorers Haley Shugart, a junior forward with four goals, and Katelynn Russ, another junior forward with three goals, will look to lead the Dutchwomen offense.

As for the Crimson, points leaders Lexie Laing — the sophomore forward who added the goal that forced overtime on Friday against Wisconsin, Hughes, and Gilmore will look to produce a couple of victories as Harvard takes home ice this weekend. Harvard is undefeated this season when playing at home, so skating at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center is sure to give the team an additional confidence boost in the games ahead.

“It’s always hard, especially at the beginning of the season when there haven’t been many games, to travel and win at an away rink,” Gilmore said. “There’s definitely an energy when we have more fans cheering for us and we just own the rink.”

Being at home accentuates a mentality that the Crimson team tries to take to every game: having pride on the ice.

“The mentality we try to have, home or away, is to own the rink and play with confidence,” said Hughes, the New York, N.Y. native. “That’s definitely a lot easier to do when you’re at home and you have the support of students and faculty at the game. I think we’re really excited to be back at home this weekend and use that advantage to our benefit.”

As Harvard looks to the future, these games represent the beginning of the end of the segment of the season before winter break ­— what many players consider the first half of the season. As such, the Crimson hopes to use these games as a launchpad with which they can jump into the second half of the season and continue building on their recent successes.

“So far, we’ve really focused on and noticed a pattern of improving in every game and in every period as well,” Hughes said. “Before Christmas break comes, we really want to end on a high note so that when we come back, we’re energized and ready to tackle the second half.”

“We have an opportunity to play at an elite level,” Gilmore added. “If we can set the pace, we’ll hopefully dominate the next two games and get a couple wins.”

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