BOSTON — Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal’s game plan was designed not to let Angela Ruggiero beat his team, and it worked as advertised. Only problem for the Tigers defensively was that Harvard’s third line beat them instead.
With 11:02 left, Katherine Sweet took a breakout pass that originated from Ruggiero, beat a defender to set up a two-on-one, and hit freshman Liza Solley across the crease for the finish that proved to be the difference in a 2-0 Crimson win. Nicole Corriero earned an empty netter from the mid-ice sideboards for the game’s only other goal in the final two minutes.
The Sunday win clinched the ECAC regular season title for No. 3 Harvard (25-3-1, 13-3-0 ECAC) and dropped the No. 9 Tigers (20-9-0, 12-6-0) to the 5th seed and a road series against Brown for the first round of the playoffs. Harvard had as many ECAC points as No. 5 St. Lawrence but earns the top seed by virtue of sweeping the Saints head-to-head.
Now begins the rest of the season.
“Everything we’ve done has got us pole position in ECACs, but it doesn’t mean anything in terms of winning the whole thing,” Ruggiero said.
Winning this game, like any other does, however, put Harvard in better position to get to Providence for Frozen Four. As has been the case for many of the Crimson’s 25 wins, Harvard kept the puck in its offensive zone game for most of the game. Harvard outshot the Tigers, 42-19. Harvard’s Ali Boe stopped every shot for her second straight shutout, while Princeton’s Megan Van Beusekom stopped 40 of 41.
“We wanted to put the pressure on their defensemen, and I think we did that,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone.
Kampersal agreed his defensemen did not make good decisions breaking the puck out, and that his team wasn’t generating enough speed in the middle. In addition, he felt his team lacked the energy from the day before. The Tigers had a tough 6-3 win over Brown on Saturday, but that was no excuse since Harvard had its hands full too in 1-0 win against Yale.
“[Harvard] looked like they were in better shape than us,” Kampersal said.
Princeton did have a few chances on occasion. Kim Pearce had a golden breakaway opportunity in the final minutes, but Boe was in position to make the stop..
“They certainly had some chances, a few little hiccups on our part, but that always makes it exciting,” Stone said. “Ali Boe was there for us as she’s been all year.”
Defensively, Princeton was solid. The Tigers limited Ruggiero to six shots on goal and kept a player in her face every chance they could get, as worked to their advantage in a 6-3 win over Harvard back in January.
“If a kid gives you 20 shots per game, something has to be done about that,” Kampersal said.
Ruggiero was better prepared for being shadowed this time around. She tried to utilize the 4-on-4 situations that the shadowing created at even strength, and open up seams and 4-on-3 situations on the power play.
“She did a nice job managing the game, picking her spots when to jump in,” Stone said of Ruggiero. “She was a real good team player for us.”
Ruggiero took seven penalties the last time she faced Princeton, but this time she had none. It was a new day with different officials. Ruggiero also credited fellow senior Mina Pell for helping her prepare mentally.
All three Harvard seniors — Mina Pell and co-captains Ruggiero and Lauren McAuliffe — were honored after the game with flowers for the final regular season home games. ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco was on hand to present the league regular season championship trophy, which everyone takes to be a nice honor, but it’s nothing close to anyone’s ultimate goal.
“Hopefully this is the first of many championships,” McAuliffe said. “I think we need to work on our celebration a bit. But we’re just starting.”