CANTON, N.Y. — After scoring only four goals in 12 periods of ECACHL quarterfinal hockey against Clarkson, there was reason to doubt that No. 4 Harvard could match the high powered offense of No. 1 St. Lawrence. However, the Crimson quickly put any such thought to rest by jumping out to an early lead and overpowering the Saints with two late third period goals in a 3-1 victory.
The two-time defending league champion Harvard (17-12-4) advanced to the ECACHL final for the fourth straight year. The Crimson was led by junior Liza Solley, who scored the game’s first two goals, and senior Ali Boe, who stopped 40 shots.
“Our team played tremendously well together today,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “What I am most impressed about was that we were determined to go after the net, we were a threat in the offensive zone, we had solid defense and great goaltending — a solid collective effort.”
Harvard carried confidence from its 3-0 loss to the Saints (30-4-2) in the last weekend of the regular season right through today’s victory.
“Even though we lost last time, we hit three posts and carried the play for two periods, and our girls remember that,” Stone said.
With the game tied 1-1 in the second period, each club had great chances to take the lead, but both Boe and St. Lawrence goalie Meaghan Guckian shut down their counterparts’ attack and stole the show. Guckian stonewalled Crimson forward Sarah Wilson on a breakaway off an intercepted pass at the St. Lawrence blueline, while Boe had to contend with numerous bids by the Saints on the doorstep and screened shots from the point.
As the Saints’ frustrations grew on the offensive end, the defenders began to pinch a bit more and opened up the ice for the Crimson skaters on successful breakouts.
With 5:53 to go in the third period, the Crimson players finally got the break they had been looking for. The Saints’ defense pinched to keep the puck in the offensive zone, which sent Solley into the offensive zone with plenty of ice. She fired a shot off the pad of goalie Meaghan Guckian, picked up the rebound in stride and wrapped around the net before firing the puck past Guckian glove side, for her second goal of the game.
“The kids worked hard, we outshot them two-to-one throughout the game, but they had some timely goals,” said St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan.
The deficit forced St. Lawrence to gamble more often, and Harvard took advantage. Junior Jennifer Sifers, the hero from Harvard’s series win over Clarkson, intercepted a Saints pass in the offensive zone, banked it off the boards and sprung herself on a two-on-one. She chose to fire a wrist shot that went off the post and in past the outstretched blocker of Guckian. The goal made the score 3-1 with only 2:22 remaining.
“It’s a tough loss to swallow because we got more scoring opportunities even though we lost,” said Saints captain Kate Michael. “This is a wake up call to the whole team. They know they don’t want to feel this way next weekend.”
By “next weekend,” Michael is referring to the NCAA quarterfinal game that the Saints will certainly be hosting.
“It’s very disappointing particularly playing at home after having a 30-win season, but at least we know we’re still going to be playing,” said Saints coach Paul Flanagan.
Harvard started putting the pressure on the Saints at 13:33 of the first period, when Solley shot the puck off the shoulder of Guckian. It deflected off the crossbar and into the net.
“Coach is always telling us we’ve got to get motivated by the little things, and today we really did a good job of that,” Sifers said. “If a little play went our way, we got excited. Today we came to play and knew we wanted it.”
The Saints responded quickly, finding the leveler with just under three minutes to go in the first period. Crimson goaltender Ali Boe went to cover up a contested puck on the right side of the goal, but she missed because Saints forward Emilie Berlinguette managed to poke the puck into the slot, and Crystal Connors backhanded it into the empty net.
The goal was the only bright spot of the day for the St. Lawrence offense, which lacked its typical finishing touch. ECACHL Player of the Year Sabrina Harbec was held without a point for the first time in 13 games. The Saints fell to 0-6 all-time against Harvard in the postseason.
With the win, Harvard advances to the ECACHL finals on Sunday at 2 p.m against Brown, who the Crimson tied 0-0 and 1-1 in previous meetings this season. An automatic bid to the NCAA tournament goes to the winner, while the loser’s season will be over.