BOSTON — Never before in Harvard’s 28-year women’s hockey history had a game ended in a scoreless tie, but that was story Friday night against Brown.
That Brown sophomore O’Hara Shipe produced a 45-save shutout was no surprise, because she has been playing that strong for the Bears (11-9-3, 9-3-2 ECACHL) all season. The unexpected story that Harvard freshman Brittany Martin (10-7-3, 7-3-3) had a 32-save shutout, in lieu of senior Ali Boe who was out due to a concussion.
“Both goalies were unbelievable,” said Brown coach Digit Murphy. “Clearly in a 0-0 tie goaltending is going to be the story. If either team had lost, it would have been a travesty, because I thought we both played really well. It was fast game, and it was exciting. Not enough goals for the fans, but there was a lot of speed and a lot of skill.”
Harvard dominated the power play shot count 15-2 in regulation, but Shipe proved to be the equalizer. She played the puck cleanly or deflected the puck out of harms way on each shot. When slipped up, Brown defenders always bailed her out.
“I thought the Harvard kids put a lot of pressure on O’Hara, and she was coming big, just like she has been all year,” Murphy said. “We’re winning games because of her, and we tied this game because of her.”
The story was similar on the other end. Martin posted the shutout despite never having started against a team with a winning record before. Harvard coach Katey Stone was particularly impressed with one play where she dived out head-first to cover the puck with a Brown player bearing down on her.
“She kept her composure in a very pressure-cooker game,” Stone said. “We knew that’s what we had, but Ali’s been great, and Brittany was the perfect example of taking advantage of the opportunity when it’s given to you… She practices very well and hard so it’s great to see her produce in a game.”
Martin had known for days that Boe would be unbelievable, and she rose to the occasion.
“I wanted to come in and do the best I could for [Boe] and step up to the plate,” Martin said. “My team played really well in front of me, kept the shots to the outside and cleared the rebounds.”
Because Harvard’s pressure penalty kill was successful, Martin did not face as much pressure as Shipe. That changed when Brown managed five shots on a power play that extended into overtime, but Martin handled the challenge.
“We would have like to pressure her more, but when we did, she came up big for them,” Murphy said.
Harvard’s goaltending depth appears to be stronger than it ever has been.
“We’ve been very fortunate in the last couple years to have solid goaltending, and we will continue to have solid goaltending for the next couple of years,” Stone said.
The scoreless tie for Brown was its first since the 1999-2000 season, when Ali Brewer faced off against Providence and U.S. Olympic goalie Sara DeCosta. Both goalies were finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award that season.
Harvard maintained an 8-0-2 unbeaten streak against Brown, with both ties coming this season. The teams tied 1-1 in November.
Brown next heads up to Dartmouth, while Harvard hosts Yale. Bulldog goalie Sarah Love, coming off a 33-save performance against Dartmouth on Friday, has been trouble for Harvard before.
The Crimson has scored just two goals in its last three games, but there is not much the team is going to change fundamentally at this point.
“Hopefully we can come back with the same effort and sink a few more pucks,” Stone said. “It’s not rocket science. It’s pretty simple at this point.”
Murphy expects that goaltending will be the story for the next two months in the hunt for the ECACHL title.
“There’s not bad goaltending anywhere in the ECACHL any more,” she said. “It’s a great league, a lot of solid competition. To now have the parity, it’s a coaches’ dream.”