DURHAM, N.H. — This time Harvard’s practice in defensive zone paid off. The No. 3 Crimson (7-0) took until late into the third period to get their second goal, but thanks to a defensive effort that limited New Hampshire to just eight shots in the last two periods, the No. 8 Wildcats (6-4-2) had just had one goal to their credit.
“We’re going to be chock full of these kind of games this year, that’s the way it is,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “Cleaning things up defensively is clearly our game plan this year.”
The 2-1 victory was Stone’s 11th straight over her alma mater.
Harvard co-captain Angela Ruggiero finally broke a 1-1 deadlock with six minutes left in the third period. She received the puck off the draw, circled into the slot to pull UNH freshman goaltender Melissa Bourdon to the right, and buried the puck inside the left post underneath the blocker.
Bourdon stopped 34 of 36 shots in the losing effort. She has given up just four goals in four starts this year.
“Their goalie kept them in it — she played phenomenal,” Ruggiero said. “These really good goalies are always stopping the first shot.”
Harvard shortened up to two lines in the final 10 minutes to step up the pressure and the move paid off. The Crimson controlled play and UNH was limited to just one shot in the final several minutes.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t play better down the stretch,” said UNH coach Brian McCloskey. “We have some good players. We’re just a little undermanned, and for whatever reason we ran out of legs in the third period.”
UNH was getting chances early in the game as Harvard struggled with its defensive coverage.
“We didn’t play a good first period,” Ruggiero said. “UNH played well. They were all over us. We were trying to adjust to the huge ice surface. Our team got better as the game progressed.”
Harvard struggled to generate any offensive momentum early in the game, but still managed to score first as the Wildcats surrendered an odd-man rush with co-captain Lauren McAuliffe roaring down the ice. Bourdon stopped the initial shot, but sophomore Jennifer Raimondi finished the rebound which had been over-skated by players on each side.
UNH tied the game with a power play goal late in the first period. As usual, the score originated from captain Kristen Thomas at the point, who got the puck to Allison Edgar. Edgar released from the blueline and Carolyn Gordon put the puck in from the doorstep. But that was pretty much the end of New Hampshire’s offense.
“On the rush I noticed a number of times they backed right into the zone,” McCloskey said. “I don’t know why our players didn’t just shoot. You’re not going to get around them when they’re backing in like that.”
Thomas was still showing the lingering effects from an ankle injury she sustained last Saturday against Northeastern.
The Wildcats did have more shots in the first six minutes than they had in all of last year’s game against Harvard, a 7-1 defeat.
Harvard sophomore goaltender Ali Boe was solid early, not giving up many rebounds and stopping a clean break by UNH’s Debbie Bernhard. Boe stopped 16 of 17 shots for the game.
New Hampshire did nearly score when Boe had trouble covering up the puck on its first shot of the second period. The Wildcat players protested that the puck had gone in the net but there was no goal call.
UNH will meet Harvard again on Dec. 9, with a game against Vermont in between. Harvard will have to play its third game in four days against Providence on Tuesday.
“I think the kids are very satisfied with today but they know they can do better,” Stone said. “We’re still getting used to playing two tough games in a row.”