BOSTON — Harvard seems to play its best hockey with the pressure on. Northeastern took a one-goal lead three times in the 24th annual women’s Beanpot Tournament, and all three times the Crimson answered back with a goal to tie the game less than six minutes later.
In a game in which Harvard never led until 9:59 of overtime, Lauren McAuliffe capped an emotional evening by taking a pass from freshman phenom Nicole Corriero and blowing it past Northeastern goalie Chanda Gunn to give the Crimson a 4-3 win.
It was the fourth straight year Harvard won the title on an overtime goal. (see sidebar feature)
“[Corriero] put it perfectly, so I didn’t have to do much work there,” McAuliffe quipped.
With the game extending well into the overtime period, conditioning became a major factor. Playing with a shortened bench all season has made the Harvard players strong.
“They’re used to it,” said Crimson coach Katie Stone. “They are in such great shape.”
“We ran out of gas,” said Joy Woog, Northeastern coach. “We were tired. They gave everything they had out there, and it was an unfortunate end for us.”
A largely scoreless first period did not suggest the ping pong game that was to come. Both teams traded scoring chances early, but neither was able to make a dent on the scoreboard, where it mattered.
Northeastern finally broke through in the waning moments of the first period. After a series of faceoffs in the Harvard defensive zone, Brooke Whitney stole the puck, shooting it out to teammate Kim Greene at center ice near the blue line. Greene attempted a slap shot which was off target, but bounced off the skate of Michelle Lorion and redirected past a surprised Kuusisto for the goal with just 10 second remaining in the frame.
“I had a great feeling all day,” said Woog. “I know our team was ready.”
It didn’t take long for the Crimson to even the score, however. Early in the second, Harvard had a well-executed but fruitless power play when Greene was sent off the ice for tripping. Despite numerous quality chances, the Crimson could not get the puck past Gunn, who was named a Kazmaier Award finalist earlier in the day.
Shortly after the power play expired, Kat Sweet carried the puck into the Harvard zone and made a backhand pass to an open Tracy Catlin, who buried the puck to even the score at one.
“I’ve never wanted anything more than to win this game,” said Catlin.
About five minutes later, Northeastern scored what was the most unassuming goal of the night. After circling the Harvard net multiple times, Whitney threw the puck in the general direction of the goal from the corner near the red line. The puck glanced off of Kuusisto’s skate and into the net.
The see-saw battle continued with another Harvard goal about five minutes later. Northeastern’s Pamela Pachal and Harvard’s Kat Sweet were given two minutes each, for roughing and slashing, respectively, and shortly after, Whitney took a hooking penalty to create a four-on-three situation for Harvard.
As the initial penalties expired, Sweet emerged from the box and made a beeline for the left side of the net, where she took a cross-ice pass from McAuliffe and tapped it in for the equalizer.
“I was upset they put me in the box in the first place,” said Sweet. “I just wanted to get it back. McAuliffe gave me a perfect pass across the slot.”
As play progressed into the third period, time became a factor, and Northeastern had a distinct edge in play.
“The third period I felt we were in their end the entire time,” said Woog. “It was a fun game to watch.”
As the clock ticked down, the next goal was crucial, and the game seemed all but over when Brooke White scored a power-play goal with just 5:37 remaining in the game. With Hagerman off for checking, Northeastern was able to convert its dominance on the ice into a lead on the scoreboard, when Greene, from behind the net, passed to her left to White, who one-timed the shot in the narrow opening that Kuusisto left open.
But the rollercoaster ride continued when Northeastern was called for its own checking penalty mere seconds later. With Erica Archambeau in the penalty box, Tracy Catlin wristed a shot from between the faceoff dots past Gunn to knot the score yet again, and sent the game to overtime. McAuliffe provided the heroics in the extra session.
“As time wears on, you think, ‘When’s it going to happen? When’s it going to happen?’” said Stone. “Uncharacteristically, they came right away for us.”
Harvard advances to the championship game next week, facing Boston College, 8-0 winners over Boston University in the early game. Northeastern faces the Terriers in the consolation match.