DURHAM, N.H. — Harvard vs. St. Lawrence – it’s the NCAA semifinal rematch few expected to see back in December, or even last week. In the first USCHO poll of 2005, Harvard was No. 7 with a 7-6-1 record, and St. Lawrence was No. 8 having lost 5-1 to Harvard. Now the Crimson enters the Frozen Four on Friday with an 18-0-2 unbeaten streak on the strength of a renewed focus on conditioning, constantly improving special teams and consistent team defense. St. Lawrence pulled the upset of the postseason thus far with a 3-2 overtime win over No. 2 seed Minnesota-Duluth, although the result should not have been all that surprising considering that the Saints played Dartmouth even until the final minutes of the ECACHL semifinals and gave Harvard one of its toughest challenge this calendar year with a 4-4 tie in February.
Harvard is 1-0-1 against the Saints this season and 8-0-3 in the teams’ last 11 head-to-head meetings, but the Crimson has yet to face a St. Lawrence team with so many developed scoring threats in addition to the typically solid defense. Saints forward Emilie Berlinguette has been on fire, and Jess Moffat has provided the same hot goaltending down the stretch that opponents had come to expect of All-American Saint Rachel Barrie in the past. Harvard is no stranger to hot goaltending, however. If the Crimson second and third lines can play up to the potential they’ve demonstrated defensively, and the special teams maintain their edge, then Harvard will have a clear path to its third straight NCAA final.
St. Lawrence (27-7-5 overall, 14-3-3 ECAC)
Top Scorers: Rebecca Russell, Sr., F (29-35-64), Emilie Berlinguette, Jr., F (22-23-45), Chelsea Grills, So., F (19-23-42)
Top Goaltenders: Jess Moffat, Jr. (11-2-3, 1.87, .932), Meaghan Guckian, Sr. (13-5-2, 2.28, .922)
Scoring Offense: 3.26 (8th)
Scoring Defense: 2.05 (8th)
Penalty Minutes: 14.5 (7th)
Power Play: 39 of 266, 14.7% (16th)
Penalty Kill: 206 of 243, 84.8% (16th)
The two biggest differences between the Saints of now and the Saints of December are Berlinguette and Moffat. While battling a bad back, Berlinguette struggled with six points through her first 13 games but has since delivered 39 in her next 24. In net, Moffat has stopped 145 of 151 shots (96 percent) in her last four games since taking over for freshman Meaghan Guckian, who had earned the bulk of tough starts during the regular season. The junior transfer Moffat, a big 5’11 goalie, had already proven herself to be a clutch goalie when she earned CHA tournament MVP honors back with Findlay.
With the emergence of Berlinguette, the Saints have a second line with more scoring threats than any team other than Dartmouth 5-on-5. But unlike their rivals, the Saints’ special teams have languished in the middle-of-the pack nationally.
Harvard (25-6-3 overall, 17-1-2 ECAC)
Top Scorers: Nicole Corriero, Sr., F (58-30-88), Julie Chu, Jr., F (13-52-65), Sarah Vaillancourt, Fr., F (21-41-62)
Top Goaltender: Ali Boe, Jr. (21-5-2, .915, 1.81)
Scoring Offense: 4.47 (T-3rd)
Scoring Defense: 1.85 (5th)
Penalty Minutes: 13.8 (11th)
Power Play: 55 of 220, 25.0% (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 183 of 204, 89.7% (5th)
Harvard’s last defeat, a 2-1 loss to New Hampshire in December, came on the same Whittemore Center Olympic-sized ice surface that hosts the Frozen Four, but the Crimson is a vastly improved team in its return trip. One of the differences down the stretch for Harvard has been the second and third units’ ability to shut down the opposition. While the Crimson’s scoring depth typically hasn’t matched that of league rivals Dartmouth and St. Lawrence, their defensive abilities were key to the three Harvard wins over Dartmouth. The third line uncharacteristically was touched up for three goals in the first period against Mercyhurst, although the defense redeemed itself by shutting out the Lakers for more three full periods into triple overtime. In the 4-4 February tie against the Saints, St. Lawrence also touched up the Crimson secondary units – including one goal as the Crimson transitioned off its second penalty kill unit and one shorthanded goal off the Crimson second power play unit. Harvard’s team defensive effort will have to look more like the last 72 minutes against Mercyhurst than the first 40 in order to advance.
Like most everyone else in the country, St. Lawrence has yet to find a way to shut down Nicole Corriero. The Crimson tri-captain has 10 goals and 11 assists in 10 career games against the Saints, including two hat tricks. In the 4-4 tie, she was kept off the scoreboard but still managed three assists by perfectly setting up Julie Chu for one goal and creating enough havoc on the power play for her teammates to put two rebounds into the net. Chu has 5 goals and 14 assists in eight games against the Saints. St. Lawrence had some success against the Crimson top unit by playing physical around the net, but it will be tougher for the Saints to execute that game plan on the Olympic ice.