CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Wins are not coming easily this season for No. 3 Harvard, but they do keep on coming.
For the second time in three days, Harvard found itself tied 1-1 with a Hockey East power. Sunday it was No. 8 UNH, and this time it was No. 10 Providence. And just like on Sunday, the team kept pressing until co-captain Angela Ruggiero netted the Crimson game-winner.
Ruggiero’s goal stood for a 2-1 victory and extended the best start in Crimson history to 8-0-0. All three of the game’s goals came on the Crimson power play — including the Friars’ goal.
“I think we had confidence throughout the game,” Ruggiero said. “We knew we were eventually going to score. We had to keep plugging away.”
Providence fell to 4-5-2, but Friar coach Bob Deraney was still pleased with his team’s effort, which he felt was the Friars’ second straight consistent game after a 4-1 win over Brown last Saturday. Providence kept the game close despite missing forwards Ashley Payton and Sonny Watrous.
“They’re No. 2 in the country as far as I’m concerned,” Deraney said of Harvard. “To play them even 5-on-5, score a shorthanded goal on them and have the power play beat you, it shows we’re really coming on. I’m excited about the future of our season.”
Providence capitalized on a Harvard breakdown in the third period to tie the game. The Crimson had just killed a 5-on-3 to start the period and earned a power play itself, when Ruggiero and junior Nicole Corriero crossed paths at the blue line leaving Providence’s Kelli Halcisak free to gather the puck.
Halcisak had failed in several breakaway opportunities against Harvard in their last meeting just three weeks ago — a 3-0 Harvard win — but she redeemed herself this time, tying the game.
“We hurt ourselves,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone of the turnover. “We hung our goaltender out to dry. We let down. We killed that 5-on-3, then we get a 5-on-4, then bang. We didn’t play as close attention to detail as we would have liked.”
“However, we kept after them and again we were able to get a late goal that ended up being the difference.”
Ruggiero netted the game-winner at 12:18 of the third period on the power play. The goal came as the Friars failed to clear and change up, and Harvard wore them down. The Crimson finally scored when Ruggiero unloaded from the slot with plenty of traffic in front. The Friars, caught standing still, deflected the puck, but it went in the net past Providence sophomore Jana Bugden.
Bugden stopped 30 of 32 shots for the game and kept the game tied in the first period despite several good Crimson opportunities. Harvard outshot the Friars 10-4 in the first. Corriero, Julie Chu and Lauren McAuliffe all had one-to-one chances with Bugden, but she stopped them all. Among them, Corriero had the most ice to work with but she could not repeat the move she made in beating Budgen in their last meeting.
“She’s played really well the last two games,” Deraney said. “Before we were inconsistent from the goal out to the D to the forwards, but now everyone’s playing a lot more consistent.”
Harvard finally broke the scoreless tie at 9:04 on the power play in the second period. McAuliffe started it off in transition by passing to Corriero with open ice to work with. Corriero circled behind the net and quickly dished in front to Chu, who beat Bugden far side.
“Nicole gave me a great pass and I think that was a huge part of it,” Chu said. “Everyone worked hard on it. It was a testament to the whole team, one shift after another, pounding away at it, and not getting too frantic about not scoring in the first period.”
Boe stopped 15 of 16 shots, including several tough screens.
“She made big saves that kept us on the game,” Chu said. “It could easily have been Providence’s game.”
For the season, Harvard has not given up a goal at even strength. Its opponents have scored two goals when shorthanded to just one on the power play.
Providence looks to build on its newfound consistency with a home-and-home against Boston College this weekend. Harvard will host Cornell and Colgate this weekend. Those games should be a lot closer than a year ago, but that’s okay with this Crimson team.
“[Tonight] we recovered well and found a way to win,” Stone said. “That’s what this team’s ultimately about this year. One goal better — that’s all we need to be.”