BOSTON, Mass. — She said scoring goal number 51 couldn’t have been harder. But when it came time to score goal number 52 and break the all-time collegiate record for goals scored in a single season, all it took from Nicole Corriero was one shot.
With her first and only shot of the first period, Corriero struck before the game was three minutes old, leading Harvard (22-6-3) to a 3-1 victory over Clarkson (13-17-6) on Saturday night and an ECAC quarterfinal series sweep.
After Harvard defenseman Ashley Banfield fired a shot on net and teammate Laura Brady took another swipe at the puck, the rebound squirted out towards the right face-off circle, where Corriero lay in waiting. With two defenders guarding, she backhanded the shot to the top left shelf of the goal, beating Clarkson goalie Kira McDonald for the goal at 2:39 in the first period.
“It’s more of a reaction, just trying to get your stick on the puck and just get whatever you can to the net,” Corriero said. “It’s not like I was picking the corner — I was being taken out of the play. So I was just trying to get something on it.”
Banfield, Corriero’s teammate since the two were nine years old, assisted on both the record-tying and record-breaking goals. She also netted a power play goal in the second period.
“It’s nice that we played together for so long, and then things can kind of work out right when they need to,” Banfield said. “I kind of just throw the puck on the net, and she seems to find a way to put it in, so I’ll just keep doing that.”
While the goal gave Harvard reason to celebrate, it also produced a sigh of relief from Harvard coach Katey Stone, who recognized that it had served as a distraction for her players
“The first thing I said was ‘Let’s play hockey. We can play hockey again, we don’t need to worry about that,’” Stone said. “It was great. We’re glad it’s over though.”
The goal also marked Corriero’s 254th career point, surpassing Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 for fourth place on Harvard’s all-time points-scored list.
Even though today’s 3-1 margin of victory was smaller than in yesterday’s 5-0 win, Stone was much happier today.
“We shared the puck more, we moved the puck better, and so we had some better looks at the net in transition, which I liked,” Stone said. “Both [games] I was happy with the effort. The execution yesterday wasn’t as crisp as I would have liked it to be. Today was much better.”
Corriero said yesterday was a good learning experience on the importance of team-first hockey.
“The reason why we’re here today is we played a simple but effective style of hockey,” she said. “When we tried to complicate things and do too much that’s when we found ourselves in a bit of trouble. The best game plan for us is to play simple hockey.”
Early on in the second period, Katie Johnston knocked home a goal after a melee in front of the net. This, followed by Banfield’s goal, gave the Crimson a comfortable 3-0 lead after the second period.
Clarkson tried to mount a comeback, but converted on only one of many scoring opportunities –a power play goal by Christine Bailkowski at 5:18 in the third period, preventing Ali Boe from recording her second straight shut-out, and Harvard from its fourth straight shutout of Clarkson this season.
“I felt bad that that happened the way it did,” Stone said. “But by the same token, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about a shutout. It’s about a win.”
Boe finished with 16 saves on the night in the victory, while McDonald turned in another impressive performance, stopping 33 of the 36 Harvard shots that came her way.
Noticeably absent from the Harvard line-up was Ivy Rookie of the Year Sarah Vaillancourt, who was benched by Stone for an exchange with an official that Stone described as “unbecoming of a Harvard hockey player” after receiving a game misconduct in Harvard’s 5-0 victory over Clarkson Friday night. Stone said Vaillancourt will be back in action for the ECAC semifinals this weekend at Union.