CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Harvard defenseman Josephine Pucci skated straight toward the Northeastern goal as the fourth shooter of the shootout. Goaltender Leah Sulyma came out of the net to meet her. Pucci tucked the puck around Sulyma and buried it in the back of the net.
Northeastern’s last shooter, defenseman Maggie DiMasi, sent a hard shot at goaltender Laura Bellamy, who went to her knees to block it. Bellamy immediately jumped into the air and rushed to celebrate advancing to the championship round of the 2011 Beanpot.
“I loved it,” Bellamy said of the shootout. “When that buzzer to end overtime went off, I was excited. I felt like I owed my team something for the comeback they had.”
The game had started out looking like Northeastern’s. The Huskies largely dominated the first period, scoring twice on 12 shots. Center Rachel Llanes opened up the scoring 9:31 into the game with a power-play goal. She took the puck from defenseman Maggie DiMasi at the top of the right faceoff circle and sent it flying between goaltender Laura Bellamy’s legs.
Just two minutes later, forward Casey Pickett increased the Huskies’ lead to two. Claire Santostefano fed her the puck and Pickett charged the net, sending it into the goal past Bellamy’s stick. The goal was Pickett’s sixth of the season.
Harvard had a couple of scoring opportunities late in the period, but could not capitalize. With just a couple minutes left, Harvard found themselves in a two-on-one. Kaitlin Spurling took a shot from just off the right side of the net, but couldn’t get it to go in, and the period ended with the Crimson down 2-0.
“Yes I was [worried],” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “It was less about the score and more about our play and the efficiency with which we were trying to do things. We didn’t execute our plays; we were trying to do too much offensively. When we’ve kept it simple, we’ve done really good.”
Northeastern handed Harvard a couple more opportunities with two penalties in the opening minutes of the second period. Just 19 seconds in, forward Katie MacSorley was called for hooking. Two minutes later, DiMasi took the goal off the post after goaltender Leah Sulyma slid into the boards during play, resulting in a delay-of-game call. The Crimson, however, was unable to make anything happen and only managed a few shots.
Northeastern only had one shot on target, but made sure it counted. Forward Lori Antflick approached from behind the net and sent a shot into the opposite corner of the net. Harvard turned up the intensity after that. The Crimson sent 10 shots at the net in the period. Forward Kate Buesser broke the shutout with a goal from the corner of the left circle that sailed right over Sulyma’s shoulder 12:21 into the period. Harvard continued to pepper the goal with shots, but could not connect on anything else.
“I think we were still down a little bit; it’s tough to outshoot a team, but not get anything in the net,” said forward Ashley Wheeler. “I think we realized that we could run all over this team, we could beat this team. We just kind of took that momentum and went with it into the third period.”
Northeastern only had five shots on goal in the third period. The Huskies were unable to bring the puck into their offensive zone enough to create opportunities.
“I think in the second period, we took some penalties and gave them some momentum,” said Northeastern coach Dave Flint. “That seemed to tire us out a little bit. And then we got running around in our own zone and they got some momentum going into the third period.”
The third period featured even more shots for Harvard, 11 on goal, but it wasn’t until the end of the frame that they were able to close the lead. With 4:14 remaining, Wheeler closed the deficit to one. She took the puck, maneuvering through traffic towards the goal, and shot it up over Sulyma’s head.
Less than a minute later, defenseman Marissa Gedman tied the game up, taking it to overtime with a shot fired from out past the right circle.
“I think our team definitely is a third period team,” said Ashley Wheeler. “We kind of gave coach a heart attack in the first two periods, but we had a similar game last Saturday. Our team never gives up; it’s a big thing about Harvard hockey.”
The Crimson kept fighting through the five-minute overtime period, keeping Northeastern from taking a shot, but was unable to score. Then came the shootout: a best-of-three contest that went to four shooters apiece.
Harvard’s Jilliam Dempsey scored on the team’s first shot with a move to the right and then a shot to the left. Northeastern’s first two players were unable to score, but forward Alyssa Wohlfeiler sent one in to the top corner above Bellamy. That set up Pucci’s winning shot.
This marks Harvard’s fourth trip to the Beanpot Championship in as many years. The seniors wanted that distinction, and now have the chance to win their third title, having lost to Boston College, their opponent next week, two years ago.
“In the locker room after the second period, you just looked around and the seniors wanted it so bad,” said Wheeler “Fourth year, fourth time so we’ll see how we do.”