CANTON, N.Y. — As of Saturday, No. 5 St. Lawrence had been through enough losing to Harvard and losing in general. The Saints had lost five straight to the Crimson over the past two seasons and were coming off their season’s first home loss to Brown the night the before. So when Harvard took leads of 1-0, 3-1, and 4-3 on the Saints, they refused to go away–not on this day, not on their senior day.
Before an 882-strong crowd packed with Newfoundlanders cheering for St. Lawrence captain and Kazmaier finalist Rebecca Russell, the Saints (23-5-4, 13-3-2 ECACHL) forced a 4-4 tie against the No. 6 Crimson (18-6-3, 15-1-2). Sophomore Chelsea Grills netted the shorthanded game-tying goal off a perfectly executed two-on-one with Russell with 6:33 to go.
On the Saints’ timeout prior to the Crimson power play, Russell reminded her teammates how many times Harvard had beaten them.
“The loss yesterday really fired us up, plus the statistics when we played Harvard were pretty bad, so we wanted to come out of that,” Russell said. “I think our team was ready and said this was our day. We came out with a tie which is just as good right now at this time of the season.”
Harvard, which received two goals from freshman Sarah Vailliancourt and three assists from Kazmaier finalist Nicole Corriero, was not so pleased with the result. That the Crimson allowed the third St. Lawrence goal on an unnecessary Saints 5-on-3 and the fourth goal shorthanded made for a long bus ride home to Boston.
“Everyone was playing hard, but at the same time I’m really disappointed,” said Harvard co-captain Julie Chu. “I think we had a lot of opportunities to capitalize on, and I think we gave them some opportunities we shouldn’t have. I don’t think we played our best game, and I think that’s what’s disappointing–not the score at the end but how we played.”
Chu netted the Crimson’s first goal at 6:29 when she one-timed a shot through traffic after Corriero fed her the puck from the end line. It was the eighth goal in nine games for Chu, who has been setting up goals more than scoring them these past two years.
“Now my mentality is to get it to the net and see what happen,” Chu said. “Sometimes we hold the puck too much and look for the pass too muchAgainst these good teams, you can’t be fancy. You’ve got to be gritty and get some ugly goals out there.”
While Harvard dictated play early in the game, St. Lawrence eventually got its forecheck rolling and dominated the last 10 minutes of the first period more so than any other stretch of the game. With just over four minutes left, Grills had a breakaway broken up, but the Saints kept the puck in the zone and had several free looks at the net. Junior Ali Boe stopped every one in making 32 saves for the day.
“There were some really good things today, and I think it starts with our goaltender because she had a lot of pressure today, and she came up big for us,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone.
With just under two minutes left in the period, the Crimson continued its season-long struggles of losing focus in the transition from penalty kill to even strength. This time Grills was left free to skate down the right side to the end line and dish to Sabrina Harbec in front for the finish, just seconds after a Saints power play expired. Harvard was still fortunate to survive the period giving up only one goal on 15 shots.
“Initially when we got out there, we dominated play, and all of a sudden things turned a little bit, and they woke up, and we weren’t making the smart plays we’re capable of making, and we let them back into it,” Stone said. “We turned things over in situations when we generally don’t.”
St. Lawrence also had the better run of play for most of the second period, but Harvard cashed in on two power play opportunities to take a 3-1 lead. At 3:19, a Julie Chu strike from the point was redirected by Nicole Corriero and finally Sarah Vallaincourt for the 2-1 lead.
With 1:50 left in the second period, a Harvard power play that was seemingly going nowhere went somewhere when defenseman Caitlin Cahow carried the puck all the way up the left side boards and into traffic in front. Corriero and then finally Banfield redirected the second-chance opportunities for a 3-1 lead.
St. Lawrence got right back into the game 29 seconds later. Shortly after a faceoff, the Saints cleared out the front of the Harvard net and Harbec was free to gather a lose puck trickling towards the net and finished it for her second goal of the afternoon.
“When they made it 3-1, it was somewhat deflating, but the kids responded,” said St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan. “[The Harbec goals] gave us a huge boost going into the intermissions. We kept losing the momentum and got it back late in both the first and second period.”
The Crimson outshot St. Lawrence 13-8 in third period despite getting whistled for five penalties, while the Saints had just one. Harvard hurt itself most early in the period when Vaillancourt took a checking penalty away from the play while Corriero was driving to the net.
The Crimson dug the knife deeper into itself when Jennifer Sifers was whistled for a too-many-men penalty on the ensuing penalty kill. Stone took full responsibility for that error because she urged Sifers onto the ice too early as a puck played to the Harvard bench drew the officials’ full attention. Saint defenseman Abbie Bullard floated a screen shot into the top right corner on the ensuing 5-on-3 to tie the game 3-3.
Vaillancourt made up for her earlier mistake at 8:08 of the third period with her most spectacular goal of the season. She drove up the right side, cut tightly around a defender, and snapped the puck from an impossible angle just inside the left post for a 4-3 Crimson lead, which Russell’s shorthanded setup eventually erased.
Each team had opportunities on the power play during the overtime, but neither could capitalize. The Crimson had the best chances in the final seconds, but Saints goalie Meghan Guckian held strong for the last of her 38 saves, and Harvard went home unsatisfied.
“Even if we had won this game, the message in the locker room would have been the same–we played hard, but we didn’t play well, regardless of the score,” Stone said. “I know those kids aren’t satisfied with the way things went today. That’s probably the most important thing, to keep them hungry.”