BOSTON — In the previous four Harvard-Northeastern Beanpot meetings, the Crimson needed overtime to put down the Huskies. This time when Northeastern kept the game close, Harvard took care of business in the third period.
After scoring just two goals on 38 shots against Husky captain Chanda Gunn in the first two periods, the No. 3 Crimson (18-2-1) broke through with three goals in the third to post a comfortable 5-1 victory over Northeastern (10-7-7).
Crimson co-captain Angela Ruggiero, who had a goal and three assists for the tournament while securing the Crimson defensive zone, earned MVP honors.
Harvard jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first eight minutes, with goals by defensemen Caitlin Cahow and Ruggiero, before Crystal Rochon scored late in the second period to keep the game tight. Northeastern hoped to keep up the momentum in the third, but goals from two Jennifers, Raimondi and Sifers, for Harvard in the third period put the game away.
“I felt really good about the fact we were able to get two quick ones early,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “I don’t think [Gunn] was ready at the beginning, but she certainly was ready after that. She made us work, but the nice thing about is we found a way to score from different kinds of line in different kinds of situations.”
Gunn admitted she was a little shaky to start the game, in part because her mind was stuck back in New Hampshire, where she gave up five goals on Friday and was pulled after two periods. She was caught off guard at 1:39 in the first period when a shot from the point through traffic by Cahow trickled inside the right post.
“I think my team worked really hard,” Gunn said. “I gave up a couple fluke goals and I would like to have kept the score a little closer.”
Northeastern did well to neutralize Ruggiero for much of the game, but that was not the case on a delayed penalty eight minutes in. She was tough to stop with no defensive responsibilities holding her back.
Ruggiero skated right around a defender at the blueline to move in alone on Gunn, and she cut across and finished with her backhand. The play added to the longstanding rivalry between the two California friends, who believe mutually in each other’s coolness. Gunn felt she could have stopped the puck on a good day, but she couldn’t take this one back.
“She’s such a strong a goalie and a tremendous athlete, and I knew I had to get her to move because straight on she’ll stop everything,” Ruggiero said. “I knew I had to get her move side-to-side, so I just dragged the puck to the net and found a spot open on her backhand.”
By the end of two periods, Gunn was back on. The Crimson outshot the Huskies 38-8 but still had just two goals to show for it. Northeastern kept Harvard’s shots to the outside and interrupted their flow, and Gunn was either handling shots or deflecting them wide, out of harm’s way.
Largely because of Gunn’s effort in net, when Rochon was allowed to skate into the slot on the power play and flutter a shot off Crimson goaltender Ali Boe’s chest into the net at 14:12 of the second period, it was still a game.
Northeastern is a team no one wants to have sticking around at the end, having come back to steal points from the likes of No. 4 Wisconsin and Providence.
“We were really pleased with the way we won the second period,” said Northeastern coach Joy Woog. “We wanted to take it to them in the third and play that way in the second.”
It didn’t happen though, because Harvard got a break 5:12 into the third period. On a one-timer by Raimondi from Julie Chu, the shot took the glove straight off of Gunn’s hand, and Gunn couldn’t make the save on her own glove — an instance of the old adage that if you put the puck on net, good things happen.
“We want a kid like Jen Raimondi to shoot the puck,” Stone said. “She’s got a great shot. It’s just a matter of pulling the trigger. Lines work when all three people on the line are a threat. We need to have all of our pistons firing at the right time.”
The Raimondi goal killed the Northeastern momentum from the second period,
“That goal was really heartbreaking,” Woog said. “I don’t think the kids let up; they tried to keep going, but mentally it maybe dampened their spirits a bit and put some questions in their head that maybe weren’t there before.”
With 10:30 left, Sifers shot blindly off the rebound off a Ruggiero shot from the point for the 4-1 lead. In the final minute, the Crimson scored its lone power-play goal in seven opportunities thanks to tic-tac-toe passing from Ashley Banfield at the point, to Chu at the end line, to Nicole Corriero in the crease. That goal made for the 5-1 final.
Gunn finished with 51 saves on 56 shots, the second straight start in which Northeastern has given up five goals with her in net.
“Ultimately we got a little tired,” Woog said. “Chanda made some incredible saves today but unfortunately when you give them wide-open opportunities, you can’t put a goalie in that position and continue to expect them to make amazing saves.”
Northeastern will try to regain its momentum with a Hockey East pair at Boston College this weekend. Harvard has a critical home-and-home with No. 10 Brown coming up, but for the moment, the Crimson will savor this victory. Winning the Beanpot never gets old.