PROVIDENCE, R.I. — One sign of how far Brown has come from a year ago after the game, Coach Digit Murphy told her team she was happy that a 1-1 tie with Harvard this early in the season could be considered a disappointment.
Brown (3-4-1, 2-1-1 ECACHL) did not let any scoring come easily for No. 6 Harvard (3-2-2, 2-2-2). The Crimson held the 34-27 shot advantage but struggled to execute against Brown’s pressure, which generated turnovers throughout the game.
Both goalies went unblemished aside from a 92-second stretch early in the third period when each team traded goals. Brown sophomore goalie O’Hara Shipe made 33 saves to stave off the Harvard attack, and she was adept at clearing rebounds away from Crimson skaters. On the other end, Ali Boe made up for one Crimson defensive zone turnover after another in making 26 saves, none bigger than in the final minute of overtime when she reached over to play a shot off a loose puck in front.
“I’m pretty happy,” Murphy said, “But I would have liked to have won today. I thought we played well enough to win, I thought we were aggressive. The puck was bouncing around and hit a couple posts.”
Brown was most impressive in generating more dangerous scoring chances when on the penalty kill than Harvard did on its own power play, although the Bears could not cash in on those chances.
“We’re good forecheckers,” Murphy said. “In our rink it’s a little smaller barn and it’s hard for teams to handle that pressure we put on them.”
“They’re definitely better than they were last year,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said of Brown. “They have better team chemistry than a year ago and that’s translating to the on-ice performance.”
Brown netted the game’s first goal 5-on-5 at 3:25 of the third period, just 10 seconds after what might have been a Hayley Moore goal, disallowed by a quick whistle. But Brown could still smell blood, and kept the pressure on. As the entire Harvard defense looked to Kathryn Moos, she played the puck across to Kim McManus, who one-timed the puck in for an easy finish and a 1-0 lead.
But Harvard answered right back just 92 seconds later, when for once rebounds managed to bounce to Crimson players. This time it was sophomore Laura Brady taking the first swipe, and freshman Jenny Brine putting the puck in the net. It was one of the few positives for Harvard to take from the weekend.
“We’ve made some great surges at the end of games, and that’s awesome,” Stone said. “I was pleased how when they scored, we came right back and scored. Those things are really positive and we’ve got to continue to build on that.”
The weekend still left plenty of room for improvement for the Crimson. One obvious target area for improvement is the power play, which entered Friday ranked first in the country before going 0-for-14 in two games this weekend.
Stone said the power play struggles resulted initially from adjustments that did not work out, and then the team could not easily adjust back to what it was doing before. She admitted she could have done a better job coaching this weekend.
“We’re just a little out of sync, and I take responsibility for that,” Stone said. “It’s early in the season. We’re trying to sort of figure out chemistry and what’s going to work. You change things around a bit and think you’re going to get a spark, and sometimes you get a dud.”
Those problems were not isolated to the power play. Harvard also tried juggling its lines a bit, moving top goal scorer freshman Sarah Wilson to the third line initially. Then Harvard had to shuffle again when Liza Solley got banged up in the first period.
But Harvard’s needs extend far beyond just finding the right line combinations.
“We’ve got to get back to basics and do the fundamental things well,” Stone said. “Part of that is coming back and playing good defense …We’re going to keep it simple and accentuate our strengths.”
Harvard continues the season with a tough pair at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth. The Crimson will have to do a far better job with the puck in its own end if it plans to stay close with the Bulldogs.
“We’ve got some time to work on them and what they’re going to do, but more importantly we’ve got to take care of ourselves and do the things we do well,” Stone said.
Although it’s an Olympic year, and expectations for the Crimson are not as high as usual, Stone is not willing to lay down and die.
“We are young but I said to the kids yesterday, ‘I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, they were a young team this year.’ I want us to be good, and we’re going to get good,’” Stone said. “It’s just taking us a little time to get our rhythm.”
Brown, having taken three points from archrivals Harvard and Dartmouth, has reason for confidence going into the Mayor’s Cup tournament next weekend.
“We have a good team,” Murphy said. “People have a tendency to overlook us, which is fine.”