Harvard entered the weekend riding a four-game unbeaten streak and playing its best hockey of the season. After cruising to victory against Union (4-24-2, 2-15-1 ECAC), the Crimson had to grind out a tight game against Rensselaer (12-13-5, 9-8-1) who, by at least one metric, has one of the best goalkeepers of all time. During the game against the Crimson, senior RPI goalie Lovisa Selander would set an NCAA Division I record 3,853 career saves.
By the end of the weekend, Harvard (10-11-3, 8-8-2) extended its unbeaten streak to six games, including five consecutive wins (5-0-1 since Jan. 26), to head into Tuesday’s Beanpot Championship to face the Boston University Terriers (16-6-7, 13-5-5 WHEA), who are running on a ten-game unbeaten streak of their own.
HARVARD 2, RENSSELAER 1
Harvard closed out pre-Beanpot Championship play with a grueling 2-1 win over Rensselaer that felt substantially closer than the 56-24 shot line. Considering freshman goalie Lindsay Reed and Selander both own a top-five save percentage in the country, though, the tight score made sense.
A late-season game against an ECAC team that sits just ahead of the Crimson in the conference standings meant coming out on top was an even higher priority than usual.
“This is a must-win game,” sophomore forward Becca Gilmore said. “We all knew RPI is ahead of us in the standings [and that] a win on Saturday would just go toward our goal in improving ourselves in the ECAC standings heading into playoffs.”
Harvard took to the ice against the Engineers with the same fire that has accompanied every game on the way to five consecutive wins. Ten minutes into the first, though, a penalty was called on the Crimson.
Down a player, Harvard battled fiercely, but offensive pressure from RPI brought a faceoff, a rebounding shot, a follow through, and a goal by the Engineers.
“Sometimes they’re going to get one, and they got one early on a powerplay,” Gilmore said. “You’ve just got to stay calm.”
After that initial goal, the Crimson’s defense buckled down. The score would remain 1-0 entering the second, but Harvard was on a net-peppering tear. Even the best goalies can only save so many.
“One thing we’ve emphasized, especially this past month, is just getting pucks to the net,” co-captain Kate Hallett said. “All shots are good shots, and the team has also been focused on having bodies in front of the net, screening their goalie, and looking for second chances on each shot.”
Seven minutes into the second, Gilmore found the puck on the RPI side of the ice.
“The puck was in the corner. Coach [Katey Stone] always says establish your lane, gain control of the puck,” Gilmore said. “Emma Buckles made a nice call for it, I slid it over to her, and the rest was just really good puck work by Buckles, and Jovo’s had the finishing touch lately, and just buried down.”
The score now knotted at one after sophomore forward Brooke Jovanovich’s fourth goal in three games, the Crimson refused to relax. Seven minutes later, Harvard struck again. An initial attempt rebounded and was quickly followed through by senior defender Kaitlin Tse, but Selander attempted to cover the puck.
Co-captain Lexie Laing was next to join in on the action. Suddenly, the puck squeezed out to the largely undefended backside of the net. Hallet was there for the shot, but it bounced off Selander’s skate. Another swipe by freshman forward Kristin Della Rovere, and the puck struck true.
The whole ordeal elapsed without a whistle-blow from the referee behind the net, but the Crimson’s dedication to ugly shots had paid off. By the time the puck found the net, at least four Engineers aside from Selander had passed through the crease, and more than ten seconds had elapsed since the initial shot.
The rest of the match saw more shots, solid defense, and no score change. Harvard’s relentless, determined play had worked.
“Not every goal is going to be really pretty,” Hallett said. “If we work harder than the other team in front of the net, ultimately we’re going to end up with more pucks in the net.”
HARVARD 5, UNION 1
The Crimson would show perhaps its most balanced scoring attack of the season against Union College, as 12 different players found the score sheet. Not only did Harvard score often, but the squad would find the back of the net early as well, netting three goals in the first and a fourth early in the second to the put game out of reach for the Dutchwomen.
“In the past, we have struggled to score, [but] in the last few games, everyone is on their game and burying pucks,” Gilmore said. “To have 12 different people score is definitely a confidence builder to show we have that depth…. That newly found confidence is going to be huge for us going forward.”
Capitalizing on the momentum of an exhilarating Beanpot semifinal win against No. 7/7 Boston College, the Crimson found the back of the net in the first half of the opening period as Della Rovere continued a knack for timely goals.
After receiving passes from junior forward Kat Hughes and freshman defender Maryna Macdonald, Della Rovere had earned a two-on-two rush. Despite the pass option to the slot, with Union junior goalie Kate Spooner off-angle, Della Rovere managed to sneak the puck inside the near post.
Wasting no time, the Crimson returned to the offensive. Sophomore defender Kate Glover centered the puck to Gilmore, who snapped a shot on net from between the faceoff dots. Spooner came up with the save and then another on the follow from Gilmore, but the third time was the charm for Harvard. Off the second Gilmore rebound, Jovanovich gained inside position before chipping a shot over Spooner’s pad for the 2-0 lead.
Continuing the scoring press, just over three minutes later, freshman defender Kyra Willoughby blasted a point shot wide. Collecting the carom off the end points, senior forward Bradley Fusco deftly slotted a backhand centering pass across the crease, which was deposited into the goal by freshman forward Anne Bloomer.
After closing the first with three goals in just over seven-minute, the Crimson quashed any hopes of a Union comeback with a short-handed tally from freshman forward Dominique Petrie. After the puck was pushed out into the neutral zone by Gilmore, Petrie grabbed the bouncing puck to spur herself on a breakaway, deking to the backhand side and sliding the puck five-hole.
Since coming together on the Feb. 1 matchup against Yale, the Harvard line that features Gilmore along with Petrie and Jovanovich has been on a tear. The combination has accounted for 21 points since the Yale game, with each player adding seven points apiece. Over the span, Gilmore seems to be the facilitator with seven assists, Jovanovich looks to be the finisher with five goals, and Petrie adds elements of both with three goals and four assists.
“We just had chemistry right off the bat,” said Gilmore. “I don’t think it matters whether it’s the Union defensemen, BC defensemen, or BU defensemen, or whatever. If you have chemistry, it’s going to click…. It’s so fun playing with Dom and Jovo, and I’m looking forward to what we can do Tuesday.”
Before the second intermission, sophomore forward Keely Moy would tip home a point shot from sophomore defender Sydney Sorkin to add a fifth for the Crimson. By the start of the third, Harvard’s scoring had come to an end, but the Dutchwomen would find the back of the net in the final frame with freshman forward Maia Martinez’s first career goal, setting the final at 5-1. In her fourth non-exhibition start of the season, junior goalie Beth Larcom contributed 22 saves with only one goal against. Despite the limited amount of starts, Larcom has now posted 108 saves on the 112 shots she’s faced. Freshman goalie Lindsay Reed, who has played the majority of the games, ranks top-five nationally in save percentage, giving Harvard one of the deepest goaltending cores in all of Division I.
Now, with just Tuesday’s Beanpot Championship at 8 p.m. at Bright-Landry Hockey Center and four ECAC games remaining, Harvard knows it must finish with urgency and tenacity.
“We know that each point right now matters,” Gilmore said. “It [was] a must-win on Friday, so I think there’s just a lot of energy and motivation just coming from the fact that we need these points. After the game on Tuesday [against Boston College], we played really well, so we just kind of took that energy and kept going.”
— Staff writer William Boggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BoggsTHC.
— Staff writer Connor Wagaman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @WagamanTHC.
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