CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard’s teamwork was so strong on Saturday that even when Nicole Corriero was down or sliding on the ice, she was still the most dangerous player out there.
On the strength of her effort, her teammates’ support and a little luck, Corriero compiled a hat trick and four-point afternoon in No. 2 Harvard’s 5-1 win over No. 4 St. Lawrence on Saturday. Unlike yesterday’s 3-2 Crimson overtime win, Harvard (22-2-1, 12-2-0 ECAC) got to St. Lawrence goaltender Rachel Barrie early. It was 2-0 after one period, 5-0 after two periods, and in the end Harvard had a nine-game unbeaten streak and the outright ECAC lead over the Saints (20-7-1, 11-3-0).
The assist Corriero earned when lying on the ice gave the Crimson a crucial two-goal cushion in the final minute of the first period. On the power play, Corriero was sprung into the offensive zone by Julie Chu and taken down to the ice, but that did not stop her. From ice level, she pushed the puck ahead, far enough for Crimson co-captain Lauren McAuliffe to retrieve it and beat Barrie one-on-one for the finish.
“I was just on the ground and I could see the puck in front of me,” Corriero said. “I was just trying to slot it, and then like an angel descending I see Lauren coming. It was really nice, because I’m pinned on the ground, and I was trying so hard to get something on it, and Lauren came in and put it home.”
Another unconventional goal involving Corriero put Harvard up 4-0 at 10:31 of the second period. On the power play, Corriero was trying to drive through a defender, when Crimson co-captain Angela Ruggiero ripped a slapshot. As Corriero was sliding, she heard something hit her side, and everyone started celebrating.
That Corriero goal completed a hat trick that baffled the Saints.
“You don’t see her, and then ‘Bang!’ All of sudden she’s got her arms up and she’s scored again,” said St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan. “She’s just a real smart playmaker and has a real nose for the net.”
Corriero was also in an unexpected position on her second goal, which put Harvard up 3-0 at 6:02 of the second period. She happened to be a point, because Ruggiero had moved in on the forecheck. With a low shot that beat Barrie five-hole and snuck inside far post, Corriero showcased her scoring versatility.
The first goal of the game came after just 4:57 when Corriero retrieved a seemingly harmless puck in the neutral zone and made the most of the situation. With Saint defenders trying to chase her down, she circled across the net from the top of the zone and cut back into the slot, from where she buried her backhand shot past Barrie.
Unlike yesterday, both Corriero and McAuliffe were able to fake Barrie into moving across the net in the first period.
“A goalie like Rachel is so awesome, we can’t not score right away.” Corriero said. “Otherwise she’ll get momentum and confidence and we won’t solve her at all, so it was nice to get a couple quick goals like that in the first period and get some confidence for our team.”
The Crimson skaters’ success on the forecheck gave them the early momentum and confidence this time around. Harvard played two deep to put the pressure on the Saints’ defensemen, who were already a bit worn from the day before.
“We started stronger than we did yesterday, no question,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “We changed a few things with how we pressured them, and they coughed the puck up. It was a pretty tough way [for them] to lose a game yesterday, so we wanted to jump on them.”
A year ago, Harvard scored in the first minute of each of the first two periods to blow out St. Lawrence 6-1. This time the Crimson scored in the last minute of each of the first two periods. With just four seconds left in the second period, Ruggiero stuffed home the rebound off a breakaway that she had set up for Chu.
St. Lawrence finally started playing its game in the third period. The effort paid off when Crystal Connors scored on a superb deflection past Ali Boe that went just inside the right post and cut the deficit to 5-1.
“I’m proud of the way our kids answered the bell in the last 20 minutes,” Flanagan said. “We just pleaded with them to relax, and just go out and play their game, and play with some heart and emotion, and they did a good job. We won’t be walking out of here with our heads down.”
The Saints head for a tough pair against Colgate next week. Flanagan felt his players suffered from too many bad habits developed against weaker competition earlier in the season, and he hopes they have learned their lesson.
“We just addressed with our kids in there, [Harvard] is a team we have to beat eventually if we want to win a championship and keep moving,” Flanagan said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get better and I know we can.”
Harvard next looks to avenge its first loss of the season at No. 3 Dartmouth on Friday night. The Big Green, once ranked No. 1, has suddenly dropped four of its last five and fallen to fourth in the ECAC standings, so both teams will have plenty to prove.