HANOVER, N.H. — A two-period scoring binge and tough defense down the stretch proved to be the winning formula for No. 5 St. Lawrence against No. 6 Harvard in the semifinals of the ECAC tournament on Saturday.
The Saints (28-6-3, 17-4-1 ECAC) beat the Crimson (23-7-2, 17-4-1 ECAC) for the third time this season by a score of 4-3 at Dartmouths Thompson Arena in Hanover, NH. The win snapped St. Lawrence’s six-game postseason losing streak to Harvard and ended Harvard’s streak of three consecutive ECAC titles.
Obviously were very disappointed, Harvard coach Katey Stone said. It was a very good hockey game. My hats off to St. Lawrence.
The Saints scored what would prove to be the winning goal 18:11 into the second period, as junior center Sabrina Harbec fed a nifty pass to sophomore winger Carson Duggan, who put the puck in the back of the net to give her team a 4-2 advantage. Harbec led all scorers with two goals and an assist.
Even with a two-goal lead, St. Lawrence knew better than to get comfortable against the Crimsons potent offense.
Its Harvard, Harbec said. We can have five goals and they can still come back.
The Crimson attempted to do just that, as it took advantage of a power play opportunity less than a minute later to cut the lead in half. Receiving the puck from sophomore defenseman Kati Vaughn at the right post, junior defenseman Caitlin Cahow made a hard pass across the crease to a waiting Sarah Vaillancourt. The sophomore forward one-timed the puck past St. Lawrences goalie, junior Meaghan Guckian.
With the game at 4-3 after only two periods of play, it appeared that the goals would continue piling up.
At one point I said to my assistants, Its going to be a shootout at the OK Corral here, said Saints coach Paul Flanagan.
But Vaillancourts score would be the last of the game, as St. Lawrence tightened up on defense in the third period, fighting off the Crimsons offensive efforts.
Harvards best chance came in the final minute, when the puck got loose in front of the Saints net and a scramble ensued. But Guckian gained control of the puck, ending any chance of a Crimson comeback. Guckian had 20 saves, including 10 in the third period.
Harvard had plenty of praise for St. Lawrences netminder after the game.
Whenever we play against her she makes some really big saves, said Crimson co-captain Julie Chu.
[Guckian] played really well, staved off a lot of late pressure, Stone added.
The game got off to a fast start. At 4:42 into the first period, Harbec charged through the middle of the Harvard zone with Duggan coming in at her side. Using Duggan as a distraction to the defense, Harbec took it to the net herself for the unassisted goal.
The Crimson responded quickly, as senior winger Katie Johnston launched a shot towards the goal that was deflected by Guckian. Sophomore winger Sarah Wilson was there for the rebound, and tied the score at one.
Harbec struck again for the Saints near the end of the period, though somewhat inadvertently. As Harbec tried to center a pass to Duggan, the puck deflected off of Harvard freshman defenseman Cori Bassetts shin guard and past sophomore goalie Brittany Martin.
It was pretty lucky actually, Harbec said.
[Harbec] planned that, Flanagan joked. Shes been working on that one.
The Crimson tied the score again at 4:39 of the second period on a goal by senior winger Liza Solley, who put the puck away unassisted on a wrist shot.
St. Lawrences third goal came shorthanded, as sophomore winger Alison Domenico made her way into Harvards zone and reclaimed the lead for her team after skating circles around Crimson defenders.
Duggans score padded the lead to two, and turned out to be the winner as Harvard mustered one more goal but failed to complete the comeback.
The game featured an intriguing individual matchup between Harbec and Chu, the ECACHLs top two scorers. Good friends off the ice, the two centers feed off of each others intensity come game time and eagerly look forward to opportunities to play against each other.
We compete really hard against each other but at the end of the day I think we can appreciate the challenge we pose for each other, Chu said.
Were laughing before we go on faceoffs because we know its going to be a hard one, Harbec said. Its just so much fun to play against a good player like that.
This time, Harbec got the better of the friendly rivalry, as Chus Crimson were sent home to prepare for the NCAA Tournament while the Saints moved on to the ECACHL title game against Dartmouth.