The Harvard women’s ice hockey team booked its spot in the ECAC playoffs by picking up back-to-back come-from-behind wins in its final two home matches of the season. Harvard beat Union on Friday night, 3-2, before finishing off Rensselaer, 5-2, on Saturday to complete its first weekend sweep of the season.
“We knew the position we were in heading into this weekend, and being able to pull a 4-point weekend and also get our first sweep of the year came at a pretty critical part of our season.” freshman forward Becca Gilmore said. “It doesn’t stop there though, we may have clinched a spot, but we’re still going into this weekend trying to improve our standing in the ECAC tournament.”
HARVARD 5, RENSSELAER 2
The Crimson (10-13-2, 8-9-2 ECAC) came back after trailing to beat Rensselaer (9-17-6, 6-11-3) by a score of 5-2 in its final home game of the season. Senior forward Kat Hughes scored twice and assisted another, while Gilmore and Brooke Jovanovich added a goal and two assists each for Harvard.
Harvard was tested defensively in the first period. Sophomore goalie Beth Larcom racked up 18 saves in the first frame alone. Senior forward Haley Mullins and Gilmore were called for hooking and checking, respectively, and Hughes almost broke away for a goal-scoring chance despite being in a three versus five situation. Three impressive saves from Larcom kept the game scoreless through the end of the two-skater advantage, and the first period ended with neither side being able to break the other down.
Rensselaer struck early in the second period after a shot from Engineers’ junior defensive player Josefine Hansen squirmed past Larcom and was tapped in by Rensselaer rookie Aimee Raithby. Jovanovich leveled the score just 1:06 later, finding the net following a pass from Hughes for her eighth goal of the season.
With 16:06 played in the second period, Gilmore and Jovanovich combined for a second Harvard score, with the Gilmore putting the the chance away after some skillful control took her past a defender and the goalie in one motion.
Hughes added a third for Harvard before the end of the period, after a defense-splitting pass from Gilmore in the right circle found the wide-open forward just beyond the left goalpost. The assist marked Gilmore’s 25th point in 26 games.
Freshman defense Emma Buckles increased Harvard’s advantage to three goals when she put away a loose puck in front of goal nine minutes into the final period, but this scoreline was short-lived, with Rensselaer’s junior forward Makenna Thomas responding just over a minute later to pull the Engineer’s back within two at 4-2. Hughes managed to put the game away with 1:39 to play, finishing on an open net following passes from Jovanovich and Gilmore, to end the game by a score of 5-2. The result ensures a playoff spot for Harvard with two regular season games remaining.
HARVARD 3, UNION 2
Harvard came out on top 3-2 against Union (5-13-1, 7-20-4) on Friday night in the first of its final two home contests of the regular season. Two-point performances from Gilmore, Jovanovich, Hughes, and freshman defensive player Kate Glover secured the comeback victory for the Crimson.
Harvard found itself down early in the second period, after Union sophomore forward Katelynn Russ found the net just three minutes into the frame. Harvard responded less than five minutes later, after Gilmore jumped on a loose puck and fired into the Union goal to tie the score. Glover and Jovanovich picked up assists on the play.
Midway through the third period, Gilmore and Hughes struck twice within just 1:08 of one another, putting Harvard up by a score of 3-1. Union managed to pull within a goal with 25 seconds remaining, but the Crimson was able to protect its lead long enough to ensure the victory, and collect an important two points in its playoff search.
Friday night’s victory meant that Harvard had a chance to secure a playoff spot in front of its home fans on senior day. A win meant a top eight finish, and thus a playoff berth, but anything less meant that Harvard would have to wait for next weekend’s games against first placed Clarkson and third placed St. Lawrence for a chance to clinch.
“There’s something to be said about clicking after playing together for a while, and this weekend we definitely did.” Hughes said. “But I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we were all working really hard the whole game. It really translates when you’re just hustling that extra inch, things will go your way.”
—Staff writer Eamon J. McLoughlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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