BOSTON, Mass. — It was unprecedented for a team to celebrate winning an ECAC women’s championship twice in the same minute, but Harvard did just that against St. Lawrence at Bright Hockey Center on Sunday.
The Crimson thought the championship-winning goal was scored just under three minutes into overtime, but it was called back due to a high stick. Just 37 second after the emptied bench was refilled, captain and tournament Most Outstanding Player Caitlin Cahow netted the winner.
“In the end I’m most proud of our players and the way we kept our focus,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “I don’t know what the tape will look like, but I felt like we won the game twice today.
As Cahow took the puck up ice, she recognized that St. Lawrence was sinking back and taking away the forwards of Harvard’s top line. She just went right down the center of the ice and fired a bullet at a sharp angle past Saints goalie Meghan Guckian for the 3-2 overtime victory.
“I wasn’t looking to make a big rush up the ice, but the sea sort of parted in front of me and the tendency in overtime is to focus on the high-scoring forward players,” Cahow said. “I was able to see daylight at the end of the tunnel, and I just took it. I was looking to get a rebound, but it went in the back of the net so I’ll take it.”
The victory gave Harvard (31-1-0) its fourth ECAC title in five years. The Saints (28-9-1) lost in the ECAC final for the third time in five years and remained without a postseason title in school history. They have found better success in the NCAA quarterfinals, having made four straight Frozen Fours.
“We faltered today, we wanted to win a championship, but we’ll get an opportunity for another championship,” said Saints coach Paul Flanagan.
St. Lawrence fared far better than in its last two ECAC final defeats, which were both blowouts. This Saints team was resilient in matching Harvard goals in both the second and third periods.
“We came out flying,” said Saints captain Chelsea Grills. “I’m proud of all my team members. Everyone played amazing, and our goalie made some huge saves.”
Harvard thought it had the game won when Jenny Brine scored with 4:09 left in the third. Linemate Sarah Wilson battled for the puck on the boards and fed Brine, who just tried to get a something on net that happened to go in. But just 86 seconds later, Saints top goal-scorer Marianna Locke deflected on a shot from defenseman Britni Smith to tie the game 2-2.
“I think we learned a great lesson, that you can’t back off,” Stone said. “You need to stay on your toes, get out of the zone, pressure the puck, and not sit back. That’s when bad bounces happen in hockey.”
Harvard played a scoreless penalty-free first period for the second straight game. The Saints had a 12-10 shot advantage, but a larger share of the Saints’ shots came from the outside.
St. Lawrence came out with more energy in the second period, and had Harvard on its heels early on. But a Saint penalty shifted momentum. After Harvard’s first power play unit was held scoreless for 93 seconds despite not allowing a single clear, the second unit converted on a Liza Ryabkina shot from the top of the slot at the 6:38 mark.
The Saints kept the pressure on with their own power play. They tied the game at the 12:28 mark when Grills converted a rebound from a Smith shot shortly after a power play expired.
“St. Lawrence played extremely well, especially defensively, and showed a lot of resilience,” Stone said.
Sophomore Christina Kessler stopped 29 of 31 shots in the Crimson win, while Guckian stopped 30 of 33 for the Saints. Harvard was outshot for only the fourth time all season.
Harvard has concluded the most successful ECAC campaign possible by going undefeated in league and winning the postseason tourney. In order to maintain that success, the team’s attitude is just to stay loose.
“Most important thing is our kids have fun, enjoy every moment, and stay aggressive,” Stone said. “I think we felt a lot of pressure in the regular season, we’re just having a lot of fun now.”