College Hockey:
Rensselaer Rocks Harvard

Engineers survive Crimson onslaught in stunning win

Game details compiled from press releases.

It’s been a tough weekend for Harvard hockey. If the men’s first-round Game 1 loss to Brown was stunning, what happened to the Crimson women 18 hours later was downright catastrophic.

The upstart Rensselaer Engineers crushed the top-seeded hosts, 3-2, with a power-play goal 13:20 into overtime Saturday afternoon. When combined with Dartmouth’s 5-2 win over St. Lawrence in the second semfinal, RPI’s victory ultimately ended the defending ECAC Hockey champions’ season.

Senior Sarah Wilson scored twice and junior Christina Kessler stopped 14 for Harvard (19-10-3), who fell despite an overwhelming dominant performance. Second-year Engineer Sonja van der Bliek was quite literally RPI’s savior, denying 48 of 50 Harvard shots. Junior Whitney Naslund scored twice as well, but it was classmate Laura Gersten who slapped home the game-winner for Rensselaer (19-13-4).

In the extra session, Harvard was whistled for too many skaters on the ice at 11:26, setting up RPI’s fourth power play of the contest. After an RPI timeout, the Engineers controlled the puck in the Crimson zone, looking for a shot. Kendra Dunlop swung the puck around the net to Jamie-Lynn Stewart, who found Gersten standing at the right point. Gersten blasted a slap shot that found its way through traffic and past Kesslers glove for the game winner at 13:20.

The Crimson could only shake their heads, having outshot their foes 50-17 in the game as a whole and 8-1 in overtime alone. Harvard stormed van der Bliek’s castle right out of the gates with a number of grade-A scoring chances, but the Cantabs had no luck with the bounces or in solving RPI’s omnipresent goaltender.

After more than 33 minutes of scoreless play, RPI finally got on the board at 13:44 after Anna McDonald was whistled for a cross check. Allison Wright sent the puck down to Alisa Harrison who was at the left boards behind the net. Harrison sent it to Naslund in front of the crease, and Naslund one-timed a puck past Kessler for the game’s first score.

Less than two minutes later, RPI again found the back of the net as Wright got a pass to Naslund between the left faceoff circle and the blue line. Naslund skated in to the circle and sent a wrister past Kessler into the top right corner of the net at 15:29, giving the Engineers a two-goal lead.

The Crimson responded less than a minute later, as Wilson took a pass from McDonald and skated into the RPI zone. Wilson sent a wrister from between the circles past van der Bliek at 3:49 to cut the deficit to one.

Harvard soph Liza Ryabkina came inches away from tying it up 1:48 into the third period, as she got the puck near the blue line and skated into the slot. Ryabkina’s shot clanged off the right post and deflected back underneath van der Bliek, who covered it up to prevent a Crimson rebound. RPI had an excellent opportunity eight minutes into the stanza when Allysen Weidner and Dunlop skated in on a two-on-one. Dunlop got the pass from Weidner, but Weidner could not get the puck past Kessler.

The Engineers were called for a high-sticking infraction at 9:12, giving the Crimson another power-play opportunity. Ryabkina took a shot from the top of the left point that van der Bliek just got her glove on, as the puck trickled barely wide of the net. Harvard would tie it up later in the power play, though, as sophomore Leanna Coskren, from the right side, fed a pass to Wilson between the circles. Wilson put a one-timer just past van der Bliek’s stick at 10:42.

The Engineers advance to their first-ever league championship game Sunday at Harvard’s Bright Hockey Center. They will play Dartmouth, to whom RPI lost twice in the regular season, at 2 p.m. with the winner earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. The loser will in all likelihood be finished for the year.

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