Perhaps Punxsutawney Phil’s proclamation that “spring is just around the corner” applies more to hockey than to the weather — the Charles remains frozen, but Harvard is crimson-hot.
HARVARD 4, BROWN 0
The Crimson has struggled on power plays this season, notching a mere seven advantage-aided scores heading into the weekend. The power play proved key, though, in dismantling a hapless Brown team (5-16-2, 2-12-2 ECAC) that, after posting two early-season upsets over Cornell and Colgate, has gone winless over the past 16 games.
Despite outshooting the Bears 27-3 through the first, Harvard (7-11-3, 6-8-2) had only a tenuous 1-0 lead at the end of the period to show for its labors. Minutes of the second ticked by with plenty of Crimson domination but no Harvard scoring.
Then, with 11:23 to go in the period, Brown was called for interference. Power play, Crimson.
Seconds later, freshman defender Maryna Macdonald found the puck and handed it off to freshman forward Dominique Petrie near the top of the right faceoff circle. A laser sizzled through the air, skirting players from both sides to find a path between the goalie’s pads and into the back of the net. The crowd erupted, the band jumped to its feet, and Harvard had a score to match its efforts.
Aside from the security afforded by the second goal, all this — the crowd’s excitement, the set pass by Macdonald, the touch by Petrie — was familiar. With 11 minutes to go in the first, the Crimson had earned a power play goal with a similar set up and the same crew on the ice, with captain Lexie Laing passing Petrie’s rebounding shot off to senior defender Kaitlin Tse for the goal.
“One of our goals this week was to take the goalie’s eyes away and make sure we’re screening in front, so when those D-shots do get through, we have someone there to tip it and have a net-front presence,” senior forward Bradley Fusco said. “We really did that tonight, so the hard work in practice definitely paid off this week.”
This time, Harvard would strike again a mere two shots later — without a power play and with new lines on ice.
An assist from sophomore defender Kate Glover and sophomore forward Keely Moy gave Laing her second point of the day. The law of large numbers taking hold, the Crimson’s shots were finally finding their mark.
Two minutes later, a dish by Tse to a wide-open Fusco, who skated strongly down the ice to beat an advancing defender and have a clean shot at the net, completed the demolition of Brown.
Leading the Bears 4-0, with a 41-11 advantage on shots to close the period, Harvard entered the third with less fire but no less dominance, shifting the focus to shutout preservation. All 12 Brown shots were saved, earning junior goalie Beth Larcom her second shutout in as many games and earning the Crimson its second win of the weekend against an Ivy League foe.
“We don’t have an Ivy championship, so every game [against Ivy League opponents] is like playing for that championship,” Fusco said. “It really gets us hyped up.”
HARVARD 5, YALE 2
Looking to capitalize off of its first points in a couple of weeks, Harvard faced its age-old rival — Yale (7-15-1, 6-9-1). In a similar position in the ECAC standings as the Crimson, the Bulldogs matched Harvard’s intensity for the first couple of minutes of play. After a few minutes of evenly played action, however, the Crimson managed to tilt the ice with a decisive first goal. For the rest of the day, Harvard would never trail.
With 15:02 remaining in the first, sophomore forward Becca Gilmore, who has been in and out of the lineup with injury, ripped a shot from the slot that was stymied by the Yale defense. Bulldog junior goalie Tera Hofmann adjusted towards the far post to the deflected puck, but sophomore forward Brooke Jovanovich beat her to it. Opportunistically pouncing on the rebound, Jovanovich wrapped a backhand finish around Hofmann’s pads and inside the post to give Harvard the 1-0 lead.
“I think we all came out flying, and we knew that this game was huge just as we want to move up in the standings,” said freshman forward Kristin Della Rovere. “I think with everyone pushing the pace and just crashing the net and getting lots of shots through helped us get the first goal and build off of it.”
Keeping up the pressure, just another minute later, Harvard generated a point black shot that required a deft glove save from Hofmann to keep the score 1-0. Despite the near miss, the Crimson offense would not be done for the period. Just a few minutes later, 10:47 into the first frame, Harvard cycled the puck to the point for a long-range blast from Macdonald. Weaving through traffic in front of the net, the puck found the top corner with both pace and placement, doubling the Crimson lead to 2-0.
Heading into the second, Harvard would stay on the offensive with a power play. While the opportunity did prove uneventful, a key momentum shift would break the game wide open for the Crimson, and one player would primarily orchestrate it. In the early second period, with the score remaining 2-0, Yale had just killed off the Harvard penalty, and its offense responded with some promising zone time.
Funneling the puck to the net, the Bulldogs found themselves with a shooter wide open in front. Harvard freshman goalie Lindsay Reed forced the shooter to a sharper angle and made the initial save, but on the rebound, the net was exposed. As Yale’s follow-up crept towards the goal line, Della Rovere came in from behind Reed to swipe the puck off the line and prevent the Bulldogs from cutting their deficit to 2-1.
After the goal line clear, Della Rovere was not done. Leading the breakout, she found herself in a one-on-one on the left side of the ice. At first, the Yale defense effectively angled her outside the dots, but Della Rovere was able to turn the corner just enough to muster a shot off the side of the net. Although the initial attempt did not get on goal, Hofmann prematurely slid towards center but the puck bounced right back to Della Rovere, who knocked it home for the 3-0 Crimson lead.
“I think it definitely started in the defensive zone,” said Della Rovere. “We kind of fell apart, but we stayed strong and just wore them down a little bit, so I think that, as I was able to skate, I just kind of had a little edge on her–a little bit more speed–and I was able to beat her wide.”
Just about two minutes later, Della Rovere would add to her and Harvard’s totals in a play that looked very similar to the Crimson’s first goal. As Harvard controlled possession and put a shot on net, Della Rovere was able to scoop up a rebound chance and bury the opportunity with a backhand, depositing the puck in the top corner.
“Faceoffs take five people,” Della Rovere said. “We kind of run our own system, and everyone followed their routes. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Indeed, faceoffs proved to be a key to the Crimson success not only on the fourth goal but throughout the game. At the dot, Harvard beat out Yale 31-19, and the extra controlled possession gave the Crimson its edge, as other stats like shots on goal and power play opportunities stood fairly even.
“Faceoffs were a strength that we worked on this week because, last weekend, we were kind of weak on the faceoff dot,” Fusco said. “So, again, we focused in practice on making sure that we could win our faceoffs and control plays off of that. That brought us momentum, and practice paid off this week.”
Other than establishing control at the faceoff dot, another theme for Harvard throughout the game was crashing the net. Both the first and fourth goals came on rebound follow-ups, and the Crimson would look to add one more in a similar fashion.
After Macdonald unleashed a point shot, junior forward Kat Hughes collected the wide bounce off of traffic. Falling to her right, Hughes still managed to get the puck on net before the defense adjusted to the rebound ricochet, giving the Crimson its largest lead of the day at 5-0.
Macdonald proved to be the leading scorer of the day with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) followed by three players with two points: Della Rovere with two goals, Jovanovich with one goal and one assist, and co-captain and forward Lexie Laing with two assists.
The Harvard lead would stop growing at 5-0, and Yale would actually outscore the Crimson in the third, 2-1. Under a minute after the Harvard fifth goal, the Bulldogs’ sophomore forward Rebecca Foggia found the back of the net to break Reed’s shutout. Starting from near the blue line, she was able to cut through the Harvard defense and find an open pocket at the top of the right faceoff circle before firing through a screen and into the top corner.
With under two minutes left in regulation, Yale would capitalize on Harvard penalties and add a second goal on a five-on-three power play advantage. That being said, the Crimson’s efforts proved comprehensive, and Harvard had held the game in tight control from the second period onward.
With a rivalry win under its belt, as well as the team’s best scoring display in ECAC play, the Crimson would be heading into Saturday’s matchup against Brown as a different team than the one that played for most of January.
“We’re coming down to the final stretch of our season, so every point counts,” Fusco said. “It was nice to get that win…. We’ve just to bring that same energy and feed off of what we ended today and keep it rolling tomorrow. Saturday games are important to keep the energy. Like coaches said in the locker room, what happened today doesn’t matter if we don’t show up tomorrow.”
Harvard returns to play on Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Beanpot Semifinals, where the Crimson will host No. 7 Boston College. The winner advances to the final on February 12, and the loser will play for third in the consolation game on the same day.
— 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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