CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — No. 5 St. Lawrence and No. 1 Dartmouth discovered earlier this season that no third-period lead is safe against Brown, and Harvard took in the same lesson Sunday at the Bright Hockey Center. But unlike its ECAC brethren who lost points after blowing multiple-goal leads to Brown in the third period, Harvard dug deep to pull out the victory in overtime.
Freshman winger Katie Johnston provided the finishing touches on both Harvard’s third goal and the 4-3 overtime winner after Brown (12-7-2, 8-3-1 ECAC) came back from 2-0 down against the Crimson (20-2-1, 10-2-0) in front of 823 at Bright.
The game was far more competitive than the 5-2 Crimson win Saturday. Harvard pounded Katie Germain with 26 shots in the first two periods but ended up with just two goals, both from co-captain Lauren McAuliffe. Brown made for an end-to-end, physical, yet still fast-paced game in the third period, but the result was another agonizing loss to Harvard. The Bears are 1-11-1 against the Crimson since February of 1999.
“Our goaltender was a little better, I thought our coverage was a lot better, and my kids played hard,” said Brown coach Digit Murphy. “It’s hard to come out of that with a loss after you play your hearts out.”
The game-winner came at 3:47 of overtime on a deceptive play that was so seemingly harmless that even Harvard coach Katey Stone had not given it her full attention. U.S. Olympian Julie Chu held the puck patiently and well-covered in the Brown zone, when she softly dumped the puck into some space in the slot. Turns out Chu made something out of nothing because in that space was Johnston, who whacked the puck high into the back of the net.
The goal was just another product of a season long initiative to get Harvard’s younger forwards to put the puck on net rather than trying to be too fancy.
“A lot of times I tend not to shoot the puck, but this time I just bared down and shot it the first time rather than trying to make the extra move,” Johnston said.
She kept it just as simple when she deflected in a Ruggiero shot from the point for Harvard’s third goal, which came just 29 seconds after Brown had tied the game at two. It was the first multi-goal game of Johnston’s career.
“It was nice to see different people getting the clutch points,” said Stone, who said she would have to watch Johnston’s game-winner on tape.
The 3-2 Crimson lead, which began at 8:13 of the third period, was short-lived as junior Jessica Link tied the game for the Bears at 11:59 of the third period on the power play. Link retrieved a rebound from a Lindsay Glennon shot at the crease with time and space to work with. Brown’s leading scorer patiently lifted the puck over Crimson sophomore Ali Boe to tie the game. Boe stopped 14 of 17 shots for the game.
The goal was the second power play score Harvard had allowed in three opportunities — uncharacteristic of a Crimson team that had the nation’s best penalty kill entering the game. The first power play goal allowed tied the game 2-2 at 7:44 of the third period, when Brown’s Keaton Zucker was left free to put in a rebound off an Amy McLaughlin shot from the point. The Zucker goal completed a Brown comeback that started when Katie Guay ripped in an uncontested shot from the top of the right circle at 3:26 of the third period.
Murphy said the third period comeback was just a matter of her players’ fresh legs coming through and the puck finally bouncing their way. She felt the flow of this game and yesterday’s 5-2 Harvard win were similar, except for the breakdowns that led to the early Harvard goals yesterday.
“It’s real fun to watch Harvard-Brown games,” Murphy said. “We both move the puck, we both play hard. The difference is they have a couple Olympians and we don’t, to be quite frank.”
The Olympians, Chu and Angela Ruggiero did not light the lamp yesterday, but they did set up three Crimson goals. The best setup came when Ruggiero hit Lauren McAuliffe with a perfect blueline-to-blueline home run pass to set her free on a breakaway at 5:48 of the first period. McAuliffe made the most of this one, forcing Germain to the right and burying the puck to the left. Germain made 35 saves for the day, but this was not one of them.
“It was such a good pass, I was like, ‘I had better score on this,’” McAuliffe said. “No excuses on that one.”
She netted the second Crimson goal on a one-timer set up by Ashley Banfield three minutes into the second period. Harvard had plenty other chances in the first two periods against Germain, none better than a Jennifer Raimondi one-timer from Chu in the first period that was disallowed because Brown had dislodged the net.
Harvard could have given itself more distance from Brown earlier in the game, but in the end, the Crimson team still found a way.
“You’ve got to finish every game you got to play three periods, or teams from now on are going to make comebacks,” McAuliffe said. “We’ve got to be consistent and keep playing 60 minutes.”
The victory could move Harvard to No. 1 in the polls. Stone, never one to place significance on polls, nevertheless felt Harvard has earned that ranking by having two fewer losses than any other team in the country. Her focus will be on the critical home series next week against St. Lawrence, who leads Harvard by two points in the ECAC standings.
Brown will keep its attention focused on the ECAC title hunt.
“Down the stretch we’ve got a great shot,” Murphy said. “We’ve just got to keep going. It’s all about winning the ECAC championship at this point, and any team can win, you’ve got playoffs. Quite frankly I don’t think a lot of teams want to play Brown down the stretch, but that remains to be seen.”