It has been a decade since the women’s ice hockey team won a national championship. Despite 10 years of ECAC and Ivy League dominance, the Crimson have been way too close to the top — way too often. Since the first year of the women’s NCAA tournament (2001), the team has reached the NCAA tournament seven times and has had five Frozen Four appearances, three National Championship appearances, and no national titles. This includes last year’s 1-4 Frozen Four loss at the hands of NCAA runner-up Wisconsin.
Ranked No. 1 for the final two months of the 2007-08 season, last year’s Crimson team was nearly flawless, winning an NCAA record 21 consecutive games and suffocating ECAC competition, finishing with a 22-0-0 record. With the icers’ only regular season loss coming in mid-December at the hands of No. 2 New Hampshire, who also reached the Frozen Four, the loss to Wisconsin was particularly sobering.
Despite the crushing end to an outstanding year, the Crimson return fresh, reinvigorated, and ready to put last season where it belongs: in the past.
“It’s a totally new year with a totally new team, and I think that’s the main thing,” emphasized Landry Family Head Coach for Harvard Women’s Ice Hockey Katey Stone, who is in her 15th season with the team. “[Every year] you get a chance to reinvent yourself a little bit — bring the good things and leave the things that weren’t so great, using them to motivate you.” Stone, the winningest coach in program history (300-126-19) and 2007-08 ECAC Coach of the Year, ranks third all-time in Division I career wins.
The ECAC preseason favorite Crimson, currently ranked No. 3, return 21 skaters from last year’s 32-2-0 team, including senior forward and co-captain Sarah Vaillancourt, who was named ECAC Player of the Year, Ivy League Player of the Year, and New England Writers Player of the Year, as well as a first-team RBK Hockey/AHCA All-America selection. Vaillancourt also won the Patty Kazmaier Award, which is given to the top women’s hockey player in the country. Last season the stunning forward amassed 26 goals and 36 assists for 62 points, en route to eighth-place on Harvard’s career points list with 185 (81 goals, 104 assists).
Also on the offensive attack will be senior forward and co-captain Jenny Brine, who finished second on the team in goals, assists, and points with 20, 23, and 43, respectively. Brine, named to the Ivy League honorable mention team, has already turned heads this preseason, scoring the Crimson’s first goal less than three minutes into the game in Harvard’s 3-2 exhibition win against McGill (Oct. 25).
“The one thing I would say is that we have strong leadership from the captains and senior class, [and] that’s going to make or break what we do. It’s how we lead and how we discipline ourselves,” said Stone.
In goal for the Crimson will be last year’s ECAC Goalie of the Year Christina Kessler ’10, who had a remarkable record-breaking 2007-08 season, setting the NCAA single-season record with 12 shutouts.
This year’s schedule will be a grind, with 10 matchups against top 10 teams, including back-to-back games against No. 2 Minnesota (Nov. 28, 29) preceding two against No. 4 New Hampshire (Dec. 5, 12). The Crimson will then face No. 8 Boston University (Feb. 3) in the opening round of the Beanpot, and, with a win, will face either Northeastern or No. 4 Boston College. In the past 10 years, the Crimson have dominated the Beanpot, winning the tournament eight times.
The Crimson open the season tomorrow (Oct. 31) with two road games against Quinnipiac (1-7-0) followed by Princeton (1-1-0) on Nov. 1.