“Exhausted” was the word to describe the state of everyone involved after Harvard’s 2-1 double overtime win over Brown in Saturday’s ECAC semifinals. That’s exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. And it goes for those who played in it and to some extent, those who watched it.
Much of the emotional exhaustion came as a result of a frightening injury to Harvard defenseman Ashley Banfield with 6:10 left in the first overtime. Banfield fell back head first on the ice after her skates were taken out from under her along the side boards. The game was held off for more than 15 minutes as Banfield received assistance and teams prayed.
Banfield would receive two more cheers before the end of the day. The first was to wish her well as she was taken off the ice. The second was midway through the second semifinal game when the public address announced she would be released from the hospital that evening.
“We’re obviously a little concerned about Ashley,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone, before much more was known about her condition. “The euphoria of the moment is not quite as strong.”
The moment finally came in most innocent fashion as freshman Katie Johnston put the puck on net from a wide angle, and a tricky bounce caused Brown captain Katie Germain to knock it back into her net. It was Johnston’s second overtime game-winner against Brown this season and the sixth straight loss for No. 9 Brown (18-11-2) to No. 2 Harvard (29-3-1).
The goal brought Germain’s college career to a sudden halt, a cruel fate for someone who had just made 41 saves and nearly single-handedly kept her team in the game through two overtimes. There was plenty of pity for her to go around.
“She’s in good spirits,” said Brown coach Digit Murphy. “She’s a great kid, a really positive kid.”
Stone noted that unlike the end-to-end action of Harvard’s double overtime defeat to Minnesota-Duluth a year ago, Harvard was controlling the play in these overtimes. The Crimson maintained the territorial advantage in each of the overtime periods. Co-captain Angela Ruggiero felt the game became more a matter of momentum as it went along.
“Once you gain momentum it really carries over,” Ruggiero said. “Nicole Corriero had breakaways in the first and second overtimes and sort of set the pace for our team. We’re lucky we started off strong each period.”
That was a contrast to much of the first three periods, when the action was end-to-end. The most dramatic moments came midway through the third period, when Brown’s Lindsay Glennon hit the post on a powerful blueline shot on one end, and then Harvard’s Kat Sweet hit the crossbar on the other end just seconds later.
There were also near-misses to go around on both team’s power plays. Corriero and McAuliffe each had deflections of Ruggiero slapshots that kept on missing by just inches, and Brown’s top scorer Jessica Link had a chance at the crease in the second period where she just couldn’t lift the puck high enough to get through.
The only regulation goals came in the first period from Ruggiero and Brown’s Keaton Zucker. Ruggiero’s goal was a result of an odd-man rush with her and Corriero on a third-chance opportunity. One of those chances was stopped only by Glennon stopping the puck at the goal line and knocking it out, but not far enough. Zucker’s goal was a result of a perfect setup into the slot from Link at the side board.
Link’s play certainly was a reason for Murphy to be optimistic about next season. As she pointed out after the game, her team doesn’t graduate a whole lot of players.
Harvard will look to a better start for tomorrow’s game. Having an even shot count at 17-17 after two periods was entirely uncharacteristic of this Crimson team.
“I feel as though we were in some ways very lucky to win,” Stone said. “Brown came out and played better than we did at the beginning of the game and it took us a while to get comfortable. We anticipated, our goaltender kept us in the game while we were getting comfortable, and then all of sudden we started to play and had some great momentum.”
But there’s plenty Stone does feel good about. It was Harvard’s sixth win this season in games tied in third period, and the 14th of 15 overall.
“Our team continues to find a way to win which makes me feel really good,” she said.