CANTON, N.Y. — Through all the success of St. Lawrence’s six straight 20-win seasons, one elusive feat has been beating Harvard. But the Crimson’s 9-0-4 unbeaten streak against the Saints was finally laid to rest Friday with a 3-0 victory for the home team before a 1,000-strong crowd.
In addition to ending the streak against Harvard (13-11-4, 9-6-4 ECACHL), the No. 2 Saints (27-3-2, 15-2-2) also clinched home ice for the ECACHL tournament.
With history going against them and the top seed throughout the playoffs on the line, it would be understandable if the Saints’ nerves got the better of them. However, it was just the opposite as the Saints flew out of the gates to the early lead.
At the 11:33 mark of the first period, Saints center Emilie Berlinguette won a draw clean to defenseman Kerri Wallace, who rifled home a slap shot from the point to give the Saints the early lead.
“It has been tough because we always play them in such big games” said Saints coach Paul Flanagan. “The ties we have had with them have been some of the best games I have ever been a part of as a coach. Both the kids and I have tremendous respect for their program, but these two points for us tonight are huge.”
The Saints kept the pressure on Harvard and dominated play throughout the first period. They struck again on the power play with just over five minutes remaining in the period. Wallace corralled the puck at the point, faked a slap shot and fired off a slap pass to Sabrina Harbec at the back door. Harbec went five-hole on Harvard goaltender Ali Boe for the 2-0 lead.
“Kerri is showing effects of really being in her comfort zone, academically and emotionally she is much like a freshman but you can tell by her play she is comfortable and happy with this group,” Flanagan said. “She does a lot of little things, and she has great instinct. She is a great player with a bright future.”
The second and third periods were nothing like the first. Harvard carried much of the play, and certainly had the majority of the great scoring opportunities. Harvard hit the pipe twice in the second and once again in the third.
“From the beginning drop of the puck we need to be ready to go instead of after twenty minutes,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “We did a nice job of killing penalties but we shouldn’t have had to kill as many as we did. Our young players need to stay out of the box.”
The Crimson also got turned away on an excellent bid right in front of the crease but Meaghan Guckian shut the door.
“Meaghan didn’t have to make too many second and third saves, we did a good job of clearing the puck” said Flanagan of his goaltender’s nineteen-save shutout performance.
Eight minutes into the third period while on the power play, the breaks for the Saints continued. Wallace received the puck at the point and looked to try the same backdoor play to Harbec that accounted for the Saints second goal. This time, a Harvard defender got her stick on the pass and the puck flew up in the air towards the Harvard goal. Boe tried to catch the puck, but a Harvard defender and a Saints forward converged on it at the same time causing a big collision. In the midst of all the chaos, the puck kicked right out to Harbec, who took her time gathering the puck before sliding it into the empty cage.
“We know we had some huge breaks, we’ve been on the other end of that, you just have to make the most of the breaks, recognize you got lucky and keep playing hard,” said Flanagan.