BOSTON, Mass. — For many coaches, a day when your team wins its playoff opener 5-0 and your captain ties the all-time single-season goal-scoring record would be a cause for celebration. But not if you are Harvard coach Katey Stone, and you are focused on winning an NCAA championship.
Led by Nicole Corriero’s 50th goal of the season just 28 seconds into the game, Harvard (21-6-3) jumped out to 4-0 lead over Clarkson (13-16-6) entering the first intermission. But then the Crimson got away from its game, and its only goal over the final two periods was Corriero’s record-tying 51st of the season, 3:29 into the third period.
“If we play like this, it’s going to be a short postseason,” Stone said.
Both Corriero and Stone agreed that the team’s focus on the individual record was a significant source of distraction.
“I know she and I both wish she had broken it tonight because it’s been hanging over her head, and you can see it,” Stone said. “Everybody’s pushing, everybody’s trying to give her the puck, and she’s hanging on to it too long, and we’re staying out there too long You just want to get it finished so that there’s a sense of relief, and focus in on what’s most important — team play.”
Corriero said she released some pent-up energy on the drive that led to her first goal. Two excellent skating efforts by Kat Sweet in the first period and a power play screen shot by Sarah Vaillancourt helped put the game out of reach early on, but Harvard couldn’t keep up the pressure. Stone said the team became overconfident instead of self-confident, stopped moving their feet, stopped moving the puck, forced things, and became greedy and selfish.
As the game went on, the 51st goal proved to be the toughest one of all.
“I’m not the kind of person who’s going to say it wasn’t on my mind or wasn’t something I was thinking about,” Corriero said. “I just tried to do the best I could to put that outside and try to focus on the team. I wasn’t successful at doing that 100 percent of the time, but that’s what I was trying to do.”
The record tying goal finally came in the third period when Corriero deflected a Banfield shot from the point into the net. Corriero didn’t see the puck enter the net because she was facing the other way, but she knew she had the record when linemate Julie Chu indicated it was her goal. The 51st goal matched the record held jointly by Harvard’s Tammy Shewchuk from 1999 and Northeastern’s Vicky Sunohara in 1989. Both players went on to be Olympic gold medalists for Canada.
“You kind of think about how it might feel when you get that goal, and when I actually got it, I was like, ‘Whoa, okay,’” Corriero said. “Ashley does a great job of keeping her shots low, and I was just trying to get a piece of it, and it turned out pretty well, I guess.”
Now that Corriero has hit the milestone, she says she won’t be worrying about it tomorrow. And the rest of the team had best not be worrying about it either.
“We started off really well and towards the end of the game, we didn’t make the team-first plays that make us so successful,” Corriero said. “It was a good learning experience and everyone realizes the mistakes we made. We just want to come out tomorrow and play our style of hockey and not have to worry anything else but executing the things we do the best.”
Harvard was focused on starting strong today because that hadn’t happened in the teams’ previous head-to-head meeting two weeks ago. Clarkson could not keep up in its playoff debut.
“No matter how much you try to prepare them, they have to experience the difference in intensity and pace. Now they know,” said Clarkson coach Rick Seeley.
Clarkson, having qualified for the ECACHL playoffs in its first season in the league, is on track to be a force very quickly. Stone and Corriero both prasied Clarkson’s no-quit work-ethic.
“They’re all freshman and sophomores, they work hard, they’re continuing to get better,” Seeley said. “Experiences like this only help. So I’m thrilled with what they’ve done so far, and the progress they’ve made. I’ve had a good recruiting year this year so the experiences this year will help us next year.”
The teams meet again at 4 p.m. tomorrow.