With the Harvard women’s hockey team protecting a 5-1 advantage in the closing minutes of its NCAA regional showdown versus Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon (March 15), a small contingent of Crimson fans suddenly filled Bright Hockey Center with a battle cry. “Min-ah-so-ta” they sang, followed by a rhythmic succession of hand claps (two slow, three fast). Ever the educated sports fans, those Harvard hockey nuts – making up a good majority of the 1,497 on hand – weren’t just whistling Dixie.
In dispensing the eight-seeded Big Green, 5-1, the No. 1 Crimson squad (31-1-0; 27-0-0, ECAC) punched its ticket to the big dance in Duluth, scheduled for March 20 and 22 at the city’s Entertainment and Convention Center. With the victory, the Harvard program is set to make its fifth Frozen Four appearance (the team competed in the tourney in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005). And though the Crimson captured the American Women’s College Hockey Alliance national championship in 1999, the women’s NCAA title – established in 2001 – has remained elusive for the Cambridge team.
The semifinals, scheduled for this evening (March 20), will pit Harvard against the fourth-seeded (and reigning national champion) University of Wisconsin Badgers. Opening face-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. The No. 2 and 3 seeds, meanwhile, the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and the University of New Hampshire, respectively, will play in the other semifinal matchup at 9 p.m. The prevailing squads will then vie for the championship two days later (March 22) at 1:30 p.m.
Against Dartmouth, Harvard avoided a scoreless first period (and a wasted 17-shot effort) when Jenny Brine ’09 knocked a close-range blast by Carli Clemis with 33 ticks remaining. It marked the junior’s 18th goal of the season.
The Crimson found its groove in the middle stanza when the team rattled off two straight goals (courtesy of Kate Buesser ’11 and Sarah Vaillancourt ’09) within a four-minute period to take a 3-0 advantage. And though the Big Green made it a two-goal game at the 16:36 mark of the second period following Sarah Parsons’ unassisted tally past Harvard’s Christina Kessler (30 saves on the day), the Crimson later recorded a pair of power-play goals in the final period to thwart the visitor’s momentum.
Such capitalization on player-up opportunities has served Harvard well all season long. (In the midst of a 21-game win streak, the women’s last setback was Dec. 14.) For head coach Katey Stone – who incidentally earned her 300th career victory with the win – the Crimson’s aptitude in that department speaks to many of the team’s strengths. “I think we have a lot of weapons; we have a lot of versatility. Our players are really good at figuring out where the holes are,” she explained following the game. “I think we have some pretty dynamic kids and so we’re able to do a lot of things that help us be successful.”
The No. 1 Harvard women icers will take on the University of Wisconsin at 6 p.m. (EST) today (March 20) for the right to play either the University of New Hampshire or the University of Minnesota, Duluth, on Saturday (March 22) at 1:30 p.m. (EST) for the national title. For scores and updates, visit http://www.harvard.edu or http://www.gocrimson.com.