Harvard’s last run to the Beanpot Finals came in 2015 in the midst of a historically dominant season. The Crimson entered the game 18-4-2 and would go on to appear in the Frozen Four, before losing in the national championship against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
This year’s team posts a decidedly less dominant 10-11-3 record heading into the Beanpot, but being an underdog in the battle for Boston is nothing new to the Crimson — the 2015 championship team faced the nation’s best in No. 1/1 Boston College (27-0-1, 18-0-0 WHEA). Luckily for this year’s Harvard squad, both games of the 41st Women’s Beanpot have ended in upsets.
“The Beanpot is an unbelievable opportunity,” co-captain Kate Hallett said. “Only four teams in the country get to take part in this, and we’re one of them…. This is the first time in my career that we’ve made it to the Beanpot Championship…. It’s something that is really special to be a part of, and we’re just really grateful for the opportunity.”
Like this year’s Harvard team, the 2015 squad was fighting to give its seniors their first Beanpot Championship — and Boston bragging rights. Despite a 10-2 demolition by the Eagles early in the 2014-15 season, the Crimson pulled off a 3-2 upset for one of the signature wins of its national title-game campaign.
Before the 2015 victory, the Crimson’s last Beanpot triumph came in 2010. A common factor between 2015 and 2010? Both games were played at the Crimson’s Bright-Landry Hockey Center — the site of this year’s final.
“To have it at your own rink, it’s protecting your barn and really owning your rink,” sophomore forward Becca Gilmore said. “The last time Harvard won was in 2015 on home ice. We walk by that picture everyday. I’m excited to hopefully get another win.”
The Crimson is on a tear coming into the game, going unbeaten in its last six (5-0-1), good for the third-longest such streak in the NCAA. The team will face a tough test against Boston University as the Terriers have been even hotter of late, compiling a ten-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2) that ranks first in college hockey.
“Knowing that they are on a high right now, I think we just have to note that but not focus on that,” Hallett said. “We need to focus on our own game, what we’re there to do—kind of block everything else out.”
Over the weekend, BU flexed its high-flying offense with a 7-1 win over Holy Cross. The Terriers have outscored opponents by a margin of 26-12 in their last five.
The Terriers can also keep their cool in tight games. In the semifinals last week, BU eked out a shootout victory against No. 3/3 Northeastern after overtime ended, despite having trailed twice earlier in the game.
“They’re a team that’s not going to go away,” Gilmore said. “It’s going to take a full 60 or more minutes to win the hockey game, and we can’t take a shift off.”
Harvard should be up for the challenge. In recent tough games, the Crimson has also found the resolve to come from behind. During the six-game unbeaten streak, two games, including the Beanpot Semifinal against BC, have seen Harvard go down early only to battle back for the win.
With a nationally-ranked lineup, BU has players to watch. Sophomore forward Jesse Compher, who scored a power-play winner against the Crimson in the teams’ last meetup, ranks sixth in the nation in points per game (1.72) and second in assists (1.17). On the back end, sophomore goalie Corinne Schroeder posts a .929 save percentage.
Harvard, though, has experience against high save percentages. In last weekend’s game at RPI, the Crimson faced senior goalie Lovisa Selander, the record holder for most career saves in NCAA history. Harvard knew what it had to do, constantly pressuring the net and putting up 56 shots en route to a 2-1 win. This marked the Crimson’s second night of the month with 50 or more shots, with the other coming two weekends ago against Brown.
High shot numbers are less of an obstacle for Harvard’s defense, with freshman goalie Lindsay Reed’s nation-leading .945 save percentage. Pressure seems to have little impact on her ability to block the puck. In her first-ever Beanpot game, Reed notched a jaw-dropping 52 saves, allowing only one goal to help the Crimson to a 4-1 victory despite being outshot 53-26.
Defensive play has been a strong suit for the Crimson all year. The team is only giving up 2.17 goals per game. Strikingly, on four separate occasions, Harvard has given up one goal or fewer yet failed to secure a win (three separate 1-0 defeats and a 0-0 tie). The Crimson’s defense has been hot even in offensively cool games.
“One thing that we’ve talked about is just owning the front of our net—net-front battles, picking up sticks,” said Hallett. “If someone shoots a puck from the point or from the outside, we’re making sure that we’re man-on-man and taking those opponents’ bodies outside the front of our net so that our goalies can see the puck really well.”
The offense, however, is now finding the back of the net—and at a dramatic pace. Over its first 19 games of the season, Harvard averaged only 1.63 goals per game; in the last five, the Crimson has been averaging 4.2 goals per contest.
Part of the offensive boom could be the new line combination of Gilmore, sophomore forward Brooke Jovanovich, and freshman forward Dominique Petrie. The triumvirate, assembled only five games ago, has already combined for 21 points. Having a healthy, fully-staffed roster—the lack of which was the team’s Achilles heel in a January slump—is another key.
While the game will of course require technical expertise from the Crimson, the storied history of the Beanpot will create an environment of raw competition where anything can happen — a setting that can be conducive to an underdog.
“[The seniors] are one of the most deserving classes to get a title,” Gilmore said. “You know that they’re going to give 110% of their effort, so we’re going to match that and get a huge win for them and our team.”
— Staff writer William Boggs can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BoggsTHC.
— Staff writer Connor Wagaman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WagamanTHC.
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