BOSTON, Mass. — The Minnesota-Duluth coaches had been asking themselves all season, when is the second line going to click? They got their answer Saturday afternoon.
UMD’s second line players each scored two goals in a 6-3 win at No. 4 Harvard (6-4-1). The Crimson became the first team to prevent UMD’s first line from scoring a goal, but it was for naught as the No. 3 Bulldogs (10-1-2) scored four unanswered goals in the second period to break open a 1-1 game.
Leading the way for UMD were sophomore goalie Riitta Schaublin, who stopped 43 of 46 shots, and sophomore Allison Lehrke, who perfectly doubled her season’s scoring with two goals and two assists.
“[Lehrke] was on fire today, definitely the MVP of the game,” said sophomore Jessica Koizumi, one of Lehrke’s linemates. “She’s one of our captains, a great leader, just a hilarious person. It’s fun being on her line, and I definitely look up to her.”
Lehrke’s first goal was an instance of bad fortune turned to gold. She scored through traffic from the right faceoff circle shortly after exiting the penalty box for a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. Noemie Marin and Caroline Ouellette had brought the puck up ice after winning a faceoff in the Harvard zone in the final seconds of the penalty.
“I don’t think I passed up any opportunities to shoot,” Lehrke said. “Most of them I didn’t even know they went in. I just heard it hit the cushion thing in the back.”
Once Lehrke gained the scoring touch from her brief time with Marin and Ouellette, she carried it through to the rest of her line. The second line capitalized on two odd-man rushes two minutes apart early in the second period to turn a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead. On the first, Lehrke set up Koizumi, and on the second, Lehrke delivered a five-hole finish herself.
“We’ve always been fast, but we’ve never been able to work well together to produce goals,” Koizumi said. “Those [odd-man] rushes, we’re going to capitalizing on them because our line is known for speed and we’re going to be around everywhere.”
UMD began to put the game away with two power play goals from Juliane Jubinville in the second period. Jubinville put UMD up 4-1 at 11:29 when she scored through traffic from the point. That was it for Harvard junior Ali Boe, who stopped just 12 of 16 shots. Sophomore Emily Vitt came in and her teammates promptly hung her out to dry, letting Jubinville walk in all alone for an uncontested goal and a 5-1 deficit.
It was the third straight game Harvard had allowed five or more goals to a top five team, a far cry from last season when Patty Kazmaier Award winner Angela Ruggiero led a Crimson defense that gave up more than three goals just twice all season. Odd-man rushes killed the Crimson once again today.
“It seems to be the general trend where we’re dominating games and breaking down a couple times defensively and the other team’s capitalizing on our mistakes,” said Harvard tri-captain Nicole Corriero. “We need to take care of our D-zone first. We don’t have somebody like Angela who can save everybody’s butts when we screw up. Everybody’s got to take it on themselves to really step up. It’s not just one or two people.”
Harvard kept the pressure on after falling behind 5-1. The Crimson created chaos in front of the UMD net and held shot advantages of 18-9 in the second period and 15-4 in the third period. All they had to show for it in the end was a shorthanded goal by Lindsay Weaver late in the second period and a power play goal by Julie Chu early in the third period, thanks to Schaublin’s efforts.
UMD gave itself more breathing room at 5:42 when Koizumi scored directly off a faceoff won by Lehrke. Koizumi and Lehrke had been practicing the play all season, but this was the first time it had ever worked in a game.
Schaublin held the line the rest of the way. She stopped both Corriero and freshman Sarah Vaillancourt at point-blank range on several occasions.
“Multiple times your hands are halfway in the air because you think it’s in the net for sure, and she comes up with the puck,” Corriero said. “I tip my hat to Riitta.”
The day was a role-reversal for Schaublin from a year ago, when she got lit up in a 7-2 loss to Harvard last December. After that loss, UMD coach Shannon Miller put the blame squarely on her freshman goalie’s shoulders. This time around, Schaublin was the difference.
“I thought both teams showed signs of brilliance today and broke down at different times,” Miller said. “It was very typical of early in the season for both teams. Both teams had breakdowns, but fortunately Riitta saved us when that happened.”
Corriero once again led the way offensively for Harvard with a goal and an assist. She scored Harvard’s first goal on a break in the first period. She was able to skate in uncontested on Schaublin because UMD defenseman Rachel Drazan was slow to get up after a blocked shot.
Much like this game, Corriero has figured on about two-thirds of Harvard’s goals this season. The Crimson has struggled to find the alternative sources of scoring that UMD found today.
“Their scoring was pretty spread out,” Corriero said. “They got production from a couple different players as opposed to relying on one line or one player. That’s just a testament to the depth they’ve been able to develop.”
Harvard tried out new line combinations today, splitting up the top line that had been stacked with its top three scorers. After today’s results, it’s back to the drawing board.
“It’s too soon to set anything with this group,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “We’re still trying to figure out our strengths and weaknesses. Tomorrow we may be the same, or you may see a completely different lineup. I don’t know. I have to sleep on it.”
Harvard gets a second chance tomorrow at 2 p.m. Miller doesn’t think that the UMD goals will come as easily the second time around.
“I’m expecting tomorrow that Harvard’s goaltenders will be better than they were today,” she said. “I would assume when you have a bad day you’re going to turn around the next day and have a great day. So I imagine there will be better goaltending and probably a closer game.”