HARVARD 2, CLARKSON 3 (OT)
For the second time in its last three contests, Harvard was headed to overtime against a top-10 team. With three periods of play insufficient to determine a victor, the Crimson would need either a quick goal or an impenetrable defense to earn points in the single five-minute period of sudden death and move up the ECAC standings just in time for playoffs.
Reed, who had already seen 48 shots and stopped 46 to improve her nation-leading 0.945 save percentage, and the rest of the Harvard defense held steady, allowing a single Clarkson shot in the first four minutes of extra time.
The Crimson, meanwhile had displayed some offensive promise, with Jovanovich and Petrie getting shots at the Golden Knights. Then, with half a minute remaining, a Clarkson breakaway brought the puck end-to-end. Senior forward Loren Gabel got off the shot, but Reed corralled it.
As the clock wound down, though, a tie was looking probable — and impressive, given the opponent’s position as defending back-to-back national champion.
Suddenly, with less than ten seconds remaining, the puck found sophomore forward Elizabeth Giguere. Reed positioned to block a possible shot as Giguere glided down the right side — but Giguere passed back to an incoming Gabel.
Catching Reed out of position beyond the crease as she reached in an attempt to block Giguere’s dish, Gabel saw an open-net shot. The nation’s best goal-scorer found her mark, notching a second score against the nation’s best goalkeeper to earn the Knights a pair of points and hand Harvard its first ECAC loss of the month. A red “4.9” stared down on the Crimson from the clock.
The Crimson’s path to overtime in the Saturday afternoon contest against the two-time defending national champions had been all but certain. An early shot put Harvard’s initial offensive struggles against St. Lawrence in the past, and three minutes in a hooking minor was called on senior forward Kelly Mariani.
Just over twenty seconds later, senior defender Kaitlin Tse, in her last game at Bright-Landry, whacked a laser from the point. A deflection by freshman defender Maryna Macdonald, a tap from freshman forward Kristin Della Rovere, and the puck skimmed by former Ohio State All-American Kassidy Sauve to put the Crimson in the lead and extend Della Rovere’s goal streak to five games.
“We’re really focusing on lower shots, and since [the last game against Clarkson], we’ve really been focused in every game on getting to the net and screening the goalie,” junior forward Kat Hughes. “Traffic in front and getting those gritty goals is how we’re going to be successful.”
Twenty-two seconds later, the Knights responded — as teams studded with championship-winning veterans are wont to do. After retaking the puck from faceoff-winning Harvard, Giguere cruised down the ice. Reed positioned for the block, but a backward pass from the goal line found an open junior forward Michaela Pejzlova, who beat a stretching Reed for the equalizer.
From there, Clarkson dominated through the both intermission, outshooting the Crimson by 30-14 following the initial goal by the Knights. A post shot minutes into the second nearly gave Clarkson, but — as usual — luck favored Harvard.
Four minutes later, Giguere catalyzed another Clarkson play. Senior defender Emma Keenan picked up her rebounding shot, centering to a crashing Gabel. A slight adjustment to the puck’s trajectory, and a sprawling Reed watched it hit the twine.
Clutch Crimson play held the Knights’ lead to one, enduring a penalty-heavy period of 4-on-5s, 4-on-4s, and 3-on-4s, but Clarkson’s domination continued after the second break and through the opening half of the third.
Harvard continued to hold off the Knights, and Reed’s leg pad barely deflected a second puck to the post with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Twenty seconds after a near lead-expander by Clarkson, the puck found its way to the Knights’ ice. A pass from co-captain and forward Lexie Laing, and Tse fired from the point for a second time. On this zinger, though, there was no follow-through needed — the puck went five-hole, tying the game.
“We’ve caught ourselves in some situations where we’re coming from behind,” Della Rovere said. “We’re always so positive and we always work super hard and make sure that everything we get we earn, so even though these teams are ahead of us in the standings, as long as we’re working hard and doing the little things, we’ll be successful.”
In a classic display of Harvard Hockey — a save-heavy, offense-efficient strategy that has earned many an improbable win against top opponents — the Crimson was once again running with the big dogs. After surviving a power play in the final few minutes, and despite Clarkson outshooting the Crimson by more than two-to-one, the game advanced to overtime.
Following the conclusion of their final game at Bright-Landry Hockey Center, the team’s four graduating seniors - defender Kaitlin Tse, forward Bradley Fusco, and co-captains Lexie Laing and Kate Hallett - and their families were honored on the ice.
HARVARD 4, ST. LAWRENCE 2
“I think it’s easy to get down on yourselves after a period like that [the first period], so we really focused on staying positive in the locker room and not getting too nit-picky about our play,” Hughes said. “A smart hustle is something we really focused on. Sticking to the basics really helped us transition to a better period and rest of the game.”
A pivotal moment in the game came when, on a power play with a 2-0 lead in the second, St. Lawrence drew a second Harvard penalty. Sophomore defender Kate Glover had just gone to the box for cross-checking, and after just 1:02, Tse joined her for a checking minor.
With the two-skater advantage, the Saints created a flurry of chances, most notably rattling a deflection off the crossbar. On the rebound, St. Lawrence would pounce for a follow-up, but Reed dove back to the post to keep the puck out of the net. In the game, the Saints would hit the post or crossbar a handful of times. The opposition was on the verge of a 3-0 lead, but the Crimson managed to kill off the rest of the two penalties.
“Penalty kills in general are always a big momentum shifter for us as a team,” Hughes said. “I think we really utilized that [energy] from the bench watching the kids out there killing those penalties. It was able to motivate us and get our feet going [to] put pucks in the net.”
The successful penalty kill did indeed prove to be a major momentum shift. Within two minutes of the defensive stand, Harvard added two goals of its own. What could have been a 3-0 deficit turned into a 2-2 tie game.
“Going into that second period, even getting down a goal, we kept the energy positive,” Della Rovere said. “No one got down on ourselves, so it caused us to build off that.”
After some defense-to-defense passing from Macdonald to freshman defender Kyra Willoughby, Willoughby found sophomore forward Becca Gilmore for a rush.
Matched by the St. Lawrence defense, Gilmore continued streaking forward before cutting towards goal at the last second. Completing the sharp cut, she pulled the puck to her backhand before sliding it past the outstretched leg of Saints senior goalie Grace Harrison for the first Harvard tally of the game.
Just 32 seconds later, sophomore forward Brooke Jovanovich would earn possession to set up sophomore defender Emma Buckles for a one-time blast. Making pure contact, Buckles powered the puck cleanly through traffic and past Harrison to knot the game at two.
In the latter part of the first period, St. Lawrence junior defender Jacquie Diffley sprinted down the ice in a rush similar to Gilmore’s. Unlike Gilmore, however, she elected to shoot earlier rather than cut, and the decision proved to be the right one. Angling the puck to the far top-corner, Diffley was able to squeak a shot past Reed, who did get a piece of it—but not enough to keep it out of the net. At the start of the middle frame, the Saints wasted no time, scoring just 26 seconds into the period. Sophomore defender Skylar Podvey launched a point shot, and senior forward Rachael Smith positioned herself squarely in front of the net to provide a screen and deflection to put St. Lawrence up 2-0.
After the combined three-goal second period, neither squad would find the back of the net for 13-plus minutes in the third. Then, with 6:53 to go in the contest, Harvard broke the tie. Initiating offense from the defensive end, Laing created a turnover and funneled the puck to Willoughby, who contributed the secondary assist. Receiving the puck and carrying it further, Della Rovere weaved a backhand pass through multiple Saint defenders.
“[The rush] definitely started with the back-check,” said Della Rovere. “Lexie Laing made a huge back-check … picked off the puck, and followed up with a great pass, so I was able to get open and receive a pass that allowed me to use my speed … Also, Kat [Hughes] getting a second effort to get her stick on the ice and finding a way to get a stick on that puck was huge.”
As the puck slid into prime scoring position, Hughes was able to locate it despite the St. Lawrence defender’s efforts. Fighting through a stick lift from the Saints defense, Hughes managed to get her stick on the puck, chipping it over Harrison’s pad for the 3-2 lead.
“Kristin Della Rovere [and I] were kind of on a two-on-two, and she’s got great speed on an outside drive,” said Hughes. “It ended up being a two-on-one. It was a great pass—she just slid it behind the [defense], and I was able to get a stick on it. It went in, but it was a really great team effort and line play there.”
Nonetheless, after scoring the go-ahead goal, the Crimson put itself in a precarious position. Just over a minute after the strike, sophomore forward Keely Moy headed to the sin bin for a checking minor. Despite the penalty, Harvard proved unfazed and once again capitalized on a special teams opportunity.
Blocking a shot at the point, Della Rovere pushed the puck up ahead into the neutral zone. Initially, a St. Lawrence defender beat her to the puck, yet Della Rovere was able to poke the puck forward and then out-race the Saint on the second-effort. Now alone on a breakaway, Della Rovere finished the highlight-reel play with an unassisted, short-handed, game-icing goal that gave Harvard a 4-2 lead.
“After that blocked shot, just the energy from the bench — I don’t know — kind of hearing my teammates just screaming and everything was just a huge energy shift,” said Della Rovere. “Moving forward, I guess I found a way.”
Reed, who made the diving save to prevent the 2-0 deficit from becoming 3-0, proved solid as ever in net. Over the last 39:34 of the game, she held St. Lawrence scoreless en route to a 45-save performance. Reed has now made 45-plus saves in four of her last five starts.
Harvard has wrapped up Bright-Landry hockey for the regular season and will head to Brown on Friday before taking on Yale Saturday in attempts to improve its ECAC playoff seeding. The Crimson currently sits at seventh in the conference.