First the bum out: Prior to UConn’s 3-2 upset of the Harvard women’s hockey team Tuesday night (Dec. 5), the Crimson had owned the longest win streak in all of Division 1 hockey this season. Now cheer up: In the final stretch of that eight-game streak, the women beat No. 7 University of Minnesota-Duluth, twice.
The Dec. 1 and 2 victories marked an end to the Bulldogs’ recent dominance over the Cambridge team, who last managed to beat the Duluth squad in December of the 2003-04 season. Meanwhile, for the five seniors skating in crimson, the wins served as a bit, granted a very tiny bit, of revenge against a squad that bettered Harvard by a single goal in the 2002-03 NCAA title game – or at least as a scrimmage for another postseason match-up.
In the series opener opposite Minnesota, Sarah Valliancourt ’09 tallied the opening score a little under halfway through the first period to go along with an assist. Down a goal, the Bulldogs replied in the middle stanza after Elin Holmlov fired a rebound past goaltender Brittany Martin ’09 (20 saves on the night). Harvard responded less than two minutes later when Valliancourt fed an open Liza Solley ’07 in the slot to give the hosts a 2-1 edge. Harvard tallied the final goal with 4:03 remaining when winger Jenny Brine ’09 chipped in a rebound. The following night, Caitlin Cahow ’08 recorded two straight goals en route to a 4-0 shutout. Up 1-0 following Cahow’s opening score in the first period, Valliancourt helped set up her teammate in the middle period with some slick skating. Guiding the puck along the boards from 40 feet out, the sophomore evaded a host of defenders before swiping an unsuccessful shot at the Bulldog net. Cahow promptly punched home the rebound, however, to set up a 2-0 advantage. Harvard extended its lead to 4-0, following scores by Brine and Valliancourt in the second and third periods.
Both the Harvard and Minnesota defenses – ranked first and fourth in the country, respectively, at the outset of the series – were extraordinary against the power play. Over the two contests, the Crimson denied the visitors on 10 of 11 man-up opportunities, while the Bulldogs, bearing a good brunt of the referees’ calls, kept Harvard scoreless through 18 of 23 power play chances. Freshman goaltender Christina Kessler, meanwhile, had 20 saves in Saturday’s shutout to improve her career record to 3-0-0.
On Tuesday in Connecticut, Harvard no doubt missed the productivity of Julie Chu ’07, who was sidelined after suffering a sprained ankle in the second game against Minnesota. Harvard’s 2-goal effort in Storrs, in fact, is 3 goals below the team’s season average.
Tied 2-2 in the final period, Hockey East leader UConn – who never trailed in the game – pulled ahead with the eventual game-winning goal at 3:14. The final tally closed a frustrating evening for the Crimson, as both of Harvard’s goals were reciprocated within 70 seconds. The loss drops the Crimson to 11-2-0.