BOSTON, Mass. — No one on the ice for Harvard really knows exactly how the puck got in the net to tie up No. 1 St. Lawrence with six seconds left, but all that matters is that it did.
After that goal by Liza Solley, another chance for the Saints (8-0-1, 1-0-1 ECACHL) to beat Harvard (3-1-1, 2-1-1) passed by. With an 8-0 start this season, the pieces finally seemed in place for a St. Lawrence win over Harvard, but instead it was another mark in a 0-9-4 winless streak against the Crimson.
While No. 5 Harvard’s final goal on a 6-on-4 was frustrating for St. Lawrence, the team’s greater regret was not putting more pucks by Crimson senior goalie Ali Boe, who was spectacular in stopping 37 Saint shots.
“You can’t put yourself in that situation,” said St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan. “We had two or three great chances earlier on to bury it and make it a 3-1 game and that doesn’t happen, so you have to do a better job controlling things when you can.”
A Saints victory seemed imminent when Sabrina Harbec blasted a draw in the Saints zone past the red line as the clock ticked under 20 seconds. But the Crimson shoved the puck back down their throat, as senior Jennifer Raimondi brought the puck up and left it just inside the blue line for junior Jennifer Sifers, who blasted the puck on net. Sifers and junior Katie Johnston each got another swipe before Solley finally got it through.
“No one was really fully in control, we were all just scrambling in terms of trying to get a stick on it and get it to the net hard enough to go in,” Solley said. “I was in the right place at the right time. I was sort of below the goal line and trying to get my stick out far enough so I could tuck it back in the net. That’s what it takes, six players hustling.”
Solley’s goal prevented Boe’s effort from going for naught. She was at her best in the first period, when St. Lawrence had a 16-4 shot advantage, four power plays, and a 1-0 deficit. Freshman Alison Domenico’s two goals, her first since another two-goal outing against Minnesota to open the season, were Boe’s only blemishes.
After the game, Flanagan could only give Boe a half-hearted hug and a promise that the Saints would beat her one of these days.
“Our own worst enemy was a lot of shots shooting right into her, but she covered up and didn’t give us that second or third chance, and their D cleared the puck,” Flanagan said.
The first Crimson penalty kill was the toughest, as Harvard was caught running around and struggled to clear the puck. The Crimson used a more passive approach thereafter but continued to rely heavily on Boe. That has been the norm this season, as Harvard has only outshot one opponent.
“On the penalty kill, [Boe] saved us,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “She really controls it back there. She’s playing with a lot of composure, decides when the puck should go to the corner and when she should freeze it.”
The last two Saints first period power plays ended with Saint penalties, and St. Lawrence finished a disappointing 0-for-6 for the day.
“We’re killing our own power plays for the most part,” Flanagan said. “They did a good job of keeping us to the perimeter, and we overpassed it. Against a team like this, you just can’t get the perfect shot. We had a lot of chances that first period. When you don’t put those away, it comes back to haunt you nine times out of 10.”
One of those Saint penalties led to the first Harvard goal at 8:47 of the first period. A pass from defenseman Lindsay Weaver set Johnston free on a 2-on-1 as the Saints were caught in a change. Both the St. Lawrence defenseman and goalie Meaghan Guckian were playing Johnston, leaving a free pass and shot for Crimson freshman Jenny Brine, who buried the puck in the empty net.
Domenico finally solved Boe at the game’s halfway point with a spectacular individual effort to tie the game at one. She stole the puck, put it on net while using Weaver as a screen, gathered the rebound, pulled it back, and shot it around Boe while falling to the ice.
“That first goal was just effort, that was a goal-scorer’s goal too because she had the presence of mind to pull it,” Flanagan said.
Domenico gave the Saints a 2-1 lead just under seven minutes into the third period, when the Saints won the puck at the blue line through Harvard confusion, and Annie Guay and Emilie Berlinguette set up Domenico for a clear path through Boe.
Unlike yesterday’s defeat against Clarkson, Harvard regularly mounted an attack when gaining possession of the puck. Even when down, the Crimson was not out.
“They play a high-tempo, great transition game, and it doesn’t matter who’s there, whether there are Olympians or not, they play a real good game,” Flanagan said. “That just shows to me that they’re well-coached and well-trained.”
Sifers was the primary source of the Harvard attack. She put the Saints defensemen on their heels at times and drew a handful of penalties.
“What a warrior she was,” Stone said of Sifers. “She played out of her mind. We’ve got her doing everything. She played great. She had jump. She had legs for days today.”
“My plan of attack today was just to drive wide,” Sifers said. “Our team is very fast and we know that we can beat these defensemen. My plan was to drive wide and get action towards the net, and I knew there would be at least two wings crashing the net.”
Harvard struggled to cash in on its power plays, despite a respectable 2-for-7 showing in the end. The officials put away the whistles for most of the third period, but the Crimson finally succeeded in drawing a penalty with 32 seconds left, leading to Solley’s goal.
Sifers had Harvard’s best chance to win the game with a breakaway in overtime, but Guckian made the stop, one of 25 for her on the day.
“That’s something I’m going to have to practice, once I get to the goal, how to get it behind the goaltender,” Sifers said. “But speed is what I use out there, and it worked today, so I’m going to continue to use that from now on.”
The Saints’ best chances in overtime came on a penalty to Johnston, but the power play once again proved futile. The overtime showcased areas where both teams need immediate improvement — the Saints on the power play, and Harvard on staying out of the box in the first place.
“We need to get away from being a more penalized team, and get back to being the skating, passing Harvard hockey teams we’ve been in the past,” Stone said. “It’s just a matter of getting some games under us.”
Harvard’s next games will be at Yale and Brown. St. Lawrence continues its brutal early-season road schedule at Quinnipiac and Princeton.