NEW HAVEN, Conn. — It took 20 years to do it once, and it took 12 months to do it again.
Yale (2-3-2, 2-1-1 ECACHL) defeated Harvard 3-1 at Ingalls Rink Friday night to win games against its archrival in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1979-80 and 1980-81. The Bulldogs did so behind a superb effort from Sarah Love in net, as she made 46 saves and came within seconds of what would have been only the second shutout ever by a Yale goaltender against Harvard (3-2-1, 2-2-1 ECACHL).
The Yale win last year snapped a string of 39 straight Crimson wins in the series and also featured a superb performance from Love (48 saves). On this night, it was clear that she was on her game as well and ready to help Yale out of an early-season slump.
“It was great to play Harvard, because Sarah usually steps up against them,” said Yale coach Hilary Witt.
The Bulldogs made Love’s day somewhat easier by grabbing a quick lead. Harvard’s Ali Boe denied a Sheila Zingler shot on Yale’s first power play of the game four minutes in, but less than a minute later the Bulldogs struck. Regan Gilbride sent in a shot from the left circle that Boe stopped, but Kelsey Johnson and Sarah Tittman kept the puck alive for Deena Caplette to knock it in for a 1-0 lead at 4:46.
Johnson had been moved back to forward for this game and placed on Yale’s second line as the Bulldogs anticipate the arrival of freshmen Crysti Howser and Maggie Westfal, whose women’s soccer season just ended with a 5-2 loss to Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA College Cup.
“We wanted to create a little more offense,” Witt said of the Johnson move. “When those kids come back we want to have four lines.”
Love denied a 2-on-1 for the Crimson by aggressively coming out to poke the puck away from Katie Johnston seven minutes in. Then, as a Bulldog power play was ending, the Crimson’s Nora Sluzas tried to blast one from just inside the blueline with two Yale defenders on her, but Love smothered that shot.
Boe came up with some big saves of her own to keep the score 1-0 after the first despite a 10-6 shot advantage for the Bulldogs.
The Crimson came out firing right from the start in the second period, but Love stopped a flurry of shots and got a pair of back-to-back blocks from Carry Resor to keep the Crimson at bay early.
With 18:28 to play in the period, special teams again became a factor. On a delayed Harvard penalty with the puck in the Crimson zone, Love headed for the bench and the Bulldogs sent in an extra skater. Sheila Zingler came up with a terrific individual effort to keep the puck in at the blueline, then skated in on Boe. Her shot was stopped, but the rebound trickled through the crease as a pile of players gathered in front of the net. Jenna Spring got a stick on it to knock it in amidst the confusion for a 2-0 lead 1:40 into the second.
That did little to slow an onslaught of Harvard shots. Love stopped a wrister by Jennifer Raimondi two minutes after the Spring goal, then came up with an even more spectacular save two minutes after that. A nice pass from the corner found Katie Johnston open in the slot, but Love reacted quickly to cover up the five hole and deny the Crimson forward.
Harvard was on the power play at 5:47 when Love came through again. Back at the right point, Lindsay Weaver quickly worked the puck across the ice to an open Raimondi. But Love slid over into perfect position to smother the blast. That sparked a momentary offensive surge for the Bulldogs, as Deena Caplette was able to get off a short-handed shot at the other end that Boe stopped. Kristin Savard put the finishing touch on the penalty kill by blocking Harvard’s final shot attempt.
Another series of Crimson shots, including three in a span of 13 seconds, marked the end of a period in which Love registered an amazing 26 saves. Yale only put four shots on Boe.
The third period would be less busy for Love (15 saves), but first the Bulldogs had to kill off a Harvard power play that could have changed momentum. Love only had to make one save on this one before Zingler cleared the puck and a nice job on the forecheck by Savard ensured that the final seconds ticked off with the puck in the Harvard zone.
One of the few times that Love left a loose puck in the crease came 6:30 into the third when a shot got behind her, but Carry Resor was the only skater in reach of it and she got the puck out of there quickly.
As the final minutes ticked off the only question was whether Love could come up with the shutout, but the Crimson denied the bid on a Jennifer Sifers goal with 53.7 seconds left. The Bulldogs answered immediately, as after Harvard pulled Boe for an extra attacker Sarah Tittman grabbed the puck in the Yale zone, skated ahead and sent a long shot into the empty net with 25.8 seconds left.
Harvard entered the game with the best power play in the country (.333) but was 0-for-6 on this night thanks to Love and the Yale defense.
“I thought Nina Resor had a phenomenal game,” Witt said. “She took control and really played great on the PK.”
The Bulldogs now face another rival with a history against them. Dartmouth has 40 wins in a row against Yale entering Saturday’s 4 p.m. contest, but this Big Green squad has been held scoreless in three straight games.