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When the whistle blew at the end of the first period on Saturday, it looked as if Harvard women’s ice hockey (0-3-0, 0-3-0 ECAC) was on the way to its first win of the season. The Crimson lead 3-0 over Rochester Polytechnic Institute (6-1-3, 2-0-0) going into the 2nd period. Led by senior captain Shannon Hollands, who had a goal and assist in the first period, they played aggressive and tactical hockey in the first period. However, the rest of the game was a different story, as the Engineers battled back to force overtime and deliver a 5-4 loss to the hopeful Harvard women.
This was only a continuation of the Crimson’s rocky start to the 2023-24 season. After a dominant 4-0 shutout win over McGill University during the preseason, the Crimson dropped its first two games against Union and Dartmouth. The early season woes highlight the youth of the Harvard squad which features only one senior, forward Shannon Hollands, and six first-years.
“We have a young team, new coach. We're learning a lot of new systems,” said Hollands. “All of us are freshmen at this point. I think we built from last weekend and it's only up from here.”
Despite the lack of seniors, they have been able to find leadership in their group and create a positive environment in the locker room. Many look to junior captain and goalie, Alex Pellicci as someone to provide guidance during this time of change for the program.
Hollands has seen members of other classes step into the leadership typical of seniors. “Our juniors were a big class, but honestly, they've been super supportive. And my co-captain Alex Pellicci, she's like another senior to me.”
The newest member of the team is head coach Laura Bellamy ‘13. Coach Bellamy joined as head coach this August only a few months before the start of the season. She previously was the assistant head coach at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She led the Bulldogs to a No. 4 ranking in the 2022 season, and the squad always held a spot in the top 15. As a top seeded team they made 4 NCAA tournament appearances and came in 2nd place in 2022. Bellamy’s collegiate success started at Harvard as she was the goalie for the Crimson, leading her team to two NCAA tournament appearances and an Ivy League title in 2013.
HARVARD 4, RPI 5
Friday’s game against RPI was a heart breaker for Harvard. On Friday, Hollands expressed that she thought the team could rebound offensively from the previous few showings.
“I think we're a little nervous on our sticks, gripping them a little tight. I think getting more shots to the net is a huge thing. We're kind of looking for the perfect play right now. And sometimes you just gotta get the gritty goals.”
In the first period they did just that, earning them three goals all from different players. Pellicci also only faced three shots on goal the entire period.
As the second period began, so did the blue-line turnovers for the Crimson. The Engineers put a stop to the attacks before they could get quality shots off. RPI had control of the game from this point on and the Harvard defense could do nothing to stop it. What once seemed like a solid win became a 5-4 loss.
HARVARD 1, UNION 3
On Friday, the Crimson faced off against a strong Union team. Early on they struggled to maintain possession on offense. The Garnet Chargers took advantage of this and applied heavy pressure to the Harvard defense, resulting in two first period goals. This could have gotten even uglier if it were not for first-year defender Annie Sun, who put many of the Union attacks to waste. Sun displayed great physicality and strength on defense and provided much needed support for Pellicci.
The Crimson netted a goal with four minutes left in the first to level the game at one apiece. The goal was Holland's first of the season and came after great passing from first-year forward Zoe Boosamra and junior forward Gabi Davidson Adams.
Ultimately, team discipline was the main opponent of Harvard, as it recorded four minor penalties in the game. These penalties proved costly, as the Garnet Chargers scored two power play goals.
HARVARD 2, DARTMOUTH 4
Harvard traveled to Thompson Arena looking to get off on the right foot versus a familiar foe, Dartmouth. On paper, the matchup seemed like an easy one for the Crimson as it finished ranked eighth in the preseason poll, three spots above the Big Green’s projected 11th place finish. However the result on the ice proved otherwise as Harvard’s third period comeback attempt was not enough to prevent a 4-2 opening day loss. The defeat was the Crimson’s first to Dartmouth since 2015.
The first period was full of promise for the Crimson as they went on an early power play due to a Dartmouth penalty for body checking. After the Big Green thwarted Harvard’s power play offensive, the Crimson responded quickly with a great chance. With less than eight minutes left, sophomore forward Gwyn Lapp and junior forward Hannah Chorske had a two-on-one opportunity that culminated in a Lapp shot that narrowly missed the net and hit the pipe. Despite having momentum, Harvard exited the first period down one as Dartmouth forward Hamilton Doster scored following a series of deflections in front of the goal.
A tremendous effort from Davidson Adams halfway through the second period tied the game at one. Davidson Adams received a pass from Boosamra in neutral ice and skated to the faceoff dot before firing a bullet past the Big Green goalie. Dartmouth responded with a goal of its own in the final seconds of the second period to once again take a one goal lead into the intermission.
The Big Green appeared to jump out to a two-goal lead in the first minute of the third period; however, the goal was waved off following a successful first career challenge by Bellamy. Dartmouth’s two-goal lead quickly became a reality as forward Jenna Donohue converted on a penalty shot that was awarded as a result of the review. Seeking to kickstart a Crimson comeback, junior forward Kayley Crawford placed a shot into the back of the net to cut the Big Green lead to one. The third period goal marked Crawford’s first career goal, which came almost a year after her first career assist, also against Dartmouth. Harvard’s comeback never materialized as Dartmouth added a late insurance goal to win 4-2.
The team does have a lot of tools to work with this season, some being its offensive speed and physicality. Despite a loss on Friday against Union, the Crimson displayed how gritty it is willing to be. Deep into the third period it fought hard for loose pucks and delivered big hits against the boards to the tired Union squad. While it was not enough for the win, as the new pieces that are Harvard Women’s Hockey start to come together this will prove important.
This coming weekend the Crimson has a chance to get their first win against rival Yale. The Bulldogs (1-1-0, 1-1-0) will welcome Harvard to Ingalls Rink in New Haven, CT. With four games under their belt, Harvard hopes to come out of this weekend with their first of many wins to come of this season and this new era of Crimson hockey.
-Staff writer Christopher D. Wright can be reached at email@example.com
-Staff writer Josephine S. Elting can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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