With 4:36 left to play — as Harvard (3-5-1, 2-3-1 ECAC) clung to a 1-0 lead — the Engineers (4-8-4, 2-3-0 ECAC) drew an interference call on Crimson freshman defender Maryna MacDonald to set up a crucial power play opportunity. Tensions ran high in Bright-Landry Hockey Center as RPI seemed poised to convert on its fourth power play chance of the game after struggling on its first three. Not only did Harvard earn a hard-fought kill, however, but the squad also iced the game with a pivotal short-handed goal at the 2:58 mark of regulation.
“We stuck to the game plan,” freshman forward Kristin Della Rovere explained. “It just happened that we got a lucky bounce and just got a short-handed goal.”
Capitalizing on the fortuitous bounce, Della Rovere led the counter-attack in the dwindling seconds of the Engineer advantage. Trailing the play was sophomore forward Becca Gilmore, who opened up for a pass from Della Rovere. Deking towards the post, Gilmore tucked home a backhand finish over RPI captain and goaltender Lovisa Selander’s right pad to seal the win.
The Engineers would go on to pull Selander for the final couple of minutes in favor of an extra skater, but Harvard freshman goaltender Lindsay Reed and the rest of the Crimson defense held strong to preserve Reed’s first career shutout and the Harvard victory. In the effort, Reed was able to fend off all 26 shots that came her way.
“It was nice to get the monkey off my back for that one,” Reed said. “Hopefully there [are] many more [shutouts] to come.”
Della Rovere did not just contribute to the last goal, but she actually netted the first one herself. After about half a period’s worth of back-and-forth play, each team had generated a few scoring chances, but both defenses played physically and both goalies limited follow-up chances with careful rebound control. Nonetheless, with 7:55 remaining in the first frame, Della Rovere changed the game’s momentum and grabbed the game’s first goal.
“Coming on, working really hard, and having that urgency getting the first goal just kind of gives us that extra confidence moving forward,” Della Rovere said.
On the play, junior forward Kat Hughes hustled behind the net to earn possession of the puck before centering to co-captain forward Lexie Laing. From the slot, Laing ripped a shot to the low corner, which Selander quickly pushed aside with a last second right-toe kick. As Laing was releasing the puck and Selander reacting, Della Rovere jockeyed for position in front of the net. Positioning herself right on the edge of the crease, she potted the rebound before any Engineer could react.
“I think it started with support from my teammates,” Della Rovere said. “We were supporting each other in the corner and getting a lot shots. Just having that extra support allowed me to be open backdoor.”
The one finish would prove to be all the Crimson needed as Reed did not concede a goal throughout the contest. Notably, the Engineers generated their best scoring chances through odd-man rushes, but Reed proved to be up for the challenge. Looking to tie the game, as the second period wound down, RPI pushed forward on a 3-on-2 break only to the be thwarted by the right toe of Reed.
“[The key was] just staying calm and knowing that I’m big getting out there, presenting myself, and making the save,” Reed said.
Harvard would maintain the 1-0 edge as the teams headed to the locker room for the second intermission, but only after killing off 1:04 of penalty time at the end of the second as the officials had whistled for a hooking call on co-captain forward Kate Hallett. The RPI power play pressure would only intensify at the start of the third as Hughes took a slashing penalty nineteen seconds into the period. Faced with a 5-on-3 Engineer advantage, Crimson penalty killers managed to stay perfect and keep RPI off the board.
“I think our [penalty kill] is something that we should have pride in,” Della Rovere said. “I think we run a very strong PK.”
Despite the numbers deficit, Harvard tried to set the tempo on the penalty kill rather than try to react to the RPI attack. The approach seemed to work for the Crimson as the squad held the RPI power play 0-for-4 with only two aggregate shots.
“It starts with the faceoff at first, just trying to win the puck,” Reed said. “We’re being as aggressive as possible on the PK, so that helps. We’ve got to attack teams to get the puck out as quickly as possible.”
Bolstered by penalty-killing momentum, Harvard managed to hold the Engineers to only a couple of shots for the next few minutes of the period (and only six shots over the course of the entire period). In this time, the Crimson actually earned a power play of its own but failed to convert, leaving the scoreboard at 1-0 in Harvard’s favor heading into the closing stages of the game.
The Engineers last and best chance to even the scoreline came with their final power play opportunity, but the Crimson held RPI shotless over the 5-on-4 before Gilmore converted the game-clincher.
With the victory against the Engineers in hand, Harvard will immediately shift its focus to another conference foe in Union. The puck drops against the Dutchwomen Dec.1 at 3 pm in the Bright.
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