Young Women's Hockey Team Stepping Up Early

I can sum up the reasoning behind my decision to make the women’s hockey team the first beat I claimed with one word: winning.

By that I mean both that the beat has thus far proved to be extremely enjoyable and highly rewarding and that my draft choice was highly influenced by my desire to write more stories about wins than losses.

Sure, the friendliness of the players helped, and the sport had always intrigued me. (Perhaps if I had seen Mighty Ducks before Space Jam, I might have grown up on the ice instead of the basketball court.)

But I know that when I was picking up extra stories in the weeks leading up to the beat draft—the process by which writers select which teams to cover in order of story count—I was writing so I could cover a winning team.

See, there’s always reason for optimism in Bright Hockey Center; it’s just a matter of degree.


And there’s reason to believe that I could be quite a happy beat writer this winter.

Entering the 2011-12 season that kicked off last weekend, my co-writers and I all thought this team had a lot of potential; the talent level alone told us that.

The team returned arguably its top two players from a year ago: juniors Jillian Dempsey and Josephine Pucci. The current sophomore class showed plenty of potential during its rookie season, and the incoming freshmen seemed promising.

But it took last year’s squad, which was not as young as this year’s group, a little while to find its groove. Harvard sank to the bottom of the nation in penalty kill and posted a 5-6-1 record in its pre-Christmas slate.

It wasn’t necessarily that the Crimson was playing badly. Its fire and fight were still evident by the fact that it often outshot its opponents—another hallmark of coach Katey Stone’s teams. But it took the team a couple of months to learn how to turn outshooting into outscoring.

So it seemed reasonable to think that this year’s squad might similarly need a little bit of time to accustom itself to the speed and intensity of the ECAC.

That’s not to say I didn’t think the team could have a good season. I just figured there was no reason for the team to be discouraged if it didn’t excel in its first few weekends on the ice.

But when I went to Harvard’s exhibition game against McGill two weekends ago, I saw a team that was ready to play. While the Crimson’s aggression was again impressive—Harvard outshot the Martlets in the first and second periods—what was more encouraging was the Crimson’s execution on offense, particularly in the third period. Harvard and McGill each took seven shots in the frame, but the Crimson scored twice while the Martlets went scoreless. And while Stone commented that the team had to rely on its penalty kill more than it would have liked—Harvard committed a whopping 12 penalties—she had to have been encouraged by the fact that the Crimson only allowed a goal on one of them. Given the youth of the defense, this bodes well for the season.

Still, it was only an exhibition game—even if it was a 3-1 win against the defending Canadian national champions.

But Harvard continued its strong play this past weekend with a 7-1 victory over St. Lawrence on Friday and a 2-1 victory over Clarkson on Saturday. Neither of these opponents are tops in the ECAC, but the Crimson didn’t figure out how to dominate the Saints like that until the end of last season. In both of last season’s regular season matchups, Harvard took one-goal victories over St. Lawrence and needed overtime to do it the second time. When the Crimson crushed the Saints in the first round of the ECAC playoffs with two five-goal victories, it marked the culmination of a season of improvement. The fact that Harvard just beat St. Lawrence by an even larger margin signals that the team is picking off right where it left off.

The Crimson will face an early test in two weeks when it faces against No. 3 Cornell without the help of Stone, Pucci, Dempsey, and freshman Michelle Picard, who will all be in Nykoping, Sweden with the U.S. National Team for the Four Nations Cup. Their absence will leave the spotlight on players like sophomore defenseman Marissa Gedman, who scored the game-winning goal against the Golden Knights and had a goal and two assists the night before against the Saints.

I’m not saying I expect Harvard to win, but the Crimson’s younger players seem to be as prepared for the game as one could expect them to be.

Harvard is still very untested, and time will tell how the team responds to the nation’s best teams. But for now, concerns about the Crimson’s youth seem to be unmerited.

—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at


Recommended Articles