PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown jumped to a 3-0 lead over No. 4 Harvard in just under nine minutes on Tuesday night at Meehan Auditorium, but the deficit did not put Harvard down. It brought the Crimson and tri-captain Nicole Corriero up to higher level than ever before this season.
Down 3-0, the Crimson stormed back and unleashed the wrath of its firepower on the Bears. Within the next minute, the first Harvard goal was scored. Within the next eight minutes the game was tied. Within the night, Harvard (4-1-1, 4-1-0 ECAC) scored seven unanswered goals, the last four coming from Corriero. Junior tri-captain Julie Chu scored the first goal to ignite the comeback and assisted on two others, while freshman Sarah Vaillancourt assisted on Chu’s goal and three of Corriero’s.
“There was never really a point during the game when Brown was scoring when we could sense panic or dejection on the bench,” Corriero said. “Everybody was so up. We knew that we were going to get back, we knew we were going to tie this game up, and we knew that we were going to win.”
No. 9 Brown (4-3-0, 3-2-0) was the first opponent for Chu and Vaillancourt since returning from the Four Nations Cup and the first game for sophomore Katie Johnston since returning from the women’s soccer season. The resulting line juggling caused problems for Harvard in the defensive zone early on, and Brown capitalized.
The Bears earned a 5-on-3 just 1:33 into the game, and Katie Guay found Keaton Zucker on the back door for a 1-0 lead just 2:09 in. Kathryn Moos scored five minutes later when again, Harvard left the back door open, and Krissy McManus found her waiting there. Moos capped the three-goal rally with her second goal at the 8:56 mark when the Crimson turned the puck over right at the edge of the net.
But for the rest of the game, Harvard’s defensive coverage was superior and junior goaltender Ali Boe made up for any slip-ups. She made 25 saves in all, more than half of which came in the third period when Harvard was outshot 13-5.
“The first thing that doesn’t work when you haven’t had your whole team is d-zone coverage,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “Offense takes care of itself because kids are creative. The defense is all discipline and position, and if your kids have been out of sync and not playing together they’re a little lost in the defensive end. It took us midway through the first period to figure that out.”
The offense did come first for Harvard in this comeback. The top line of Vaillancourt, Chu and Corriero put pressure on the Brown defense immediately after the third goal. They created havoc in front, leading to a Chu goal from the high slot that ignited the comeback.
“Julie kept reminding everyone on the bench, ‘Chip away at this, just chip away,’” Corriero said. “That’s what it’s all about. We didn’t think about how we were down 3-0. We were just trying to take it one goal at a time. It was so early in the game too.”
The third line heeded Chu’s advice when Liza Solley found Jennifer Sifers in the high slot for the finish at 13:43 of the period. Then Caitlin Cahow buried a shot from the point that tricked through Brown freshman goaltender O’Hara Shipe to tie the game at 17:06.
The last two periods featured the Corriero and Vaillancourt show. Twice in the second period and once in the third period, Vaillancourt set up Corriero for powerful finishes at the edge of the crease.
“Obviously she hit me with three incredible passes,” Corriero said. “I was wide open because she had drawn five players on her. My job was the easy job. It’s absolutely been incredible to play with her and Chuey. It’s been a dream come true so far.”
Vaillancourt kept things simple in describing her relationship with Corriero.
“I love it just to give her the puck, and she’ll just put it in the goal,” she said. “It’s just amazing to play with her.”
Corriero also created plenty of shots herself, as usual. The most impressive came early in the third period, when Corriero powered her way alongside three Brown defenders, and even as they took her down, she still managed to put the puck around the Brown goaltender to complete a hat trick.
The irony of the goal was that Corriero had attempted the same move unsuccessfully on a clean breakaway. Regardless of the defensive pressure, she wasn’t going to miss the same shot twice.
“The fact that there were players on me kind of had their goaltender maybe guessing a little more, because she didn’t know I could stay on the puck, because I was kind of falling down at the time,” Corriero said. “I think it’s harder to read when I’m being covered as opposed to when I’m wide open, because she’s just focusing on me instead me and her teammates.”
Both Brown freshman goalies struggled against the Crimson. Shipe stopped 15 of 19 shots, and Stacy Silverman, who relieved her in the second period, made just 11 of 14 saves.
The Bears’ best scoring chances after the first 10 minutes came on a power play late in the second period when they hit a post and were victimized by a quick whistle. A Brown comeback was difficult because of Harvard’s success at staying out of the box down the stretch and the continued absence of last season’s top scorer Jessica Link.
Brown fell to just 1-13-1 in its last 15 meetings with Harvard. Coach Digit Murphy could not be reached for comment after the game.
The travel partners Brown and Harvard next take on St. Lawrence and Clarkson this weekend. The Harvard and St. Lawrence game on Friday night will be a rematch of last year’s ECAC final. The Crimson will aim not to repeat the follies of Tuesday night’s first 10 minutes next time.
“Fortunately, we’ve got some firepower to come back there, but on another day that might not be the case, so we need to be good defensively right from the first drop of the puck,” Stone said.