In the words of the late great University of Alabama head football coach, “Bear” Bryant, “Offense sells tickets; defense wins championships.”
Last week, the offense of the Harvard Crimson women’s hockey team exploded for eight goals in its Beanpot semifinal game (Feb. 3) over Boston University (BU) to advance to the tournament championship. In Tuesday’s (Feb. 10) matchup against the Boston College (B.C.) Eagles, in line with Bryant’s theory, the Crimson knew it would take an outstanding defensive performance against the No. 7-ranked Eagles to skate off the ice with their 13th Beanpot championship trophy.
Deadlocked at zero for the first 50 minutes of the game, both the Crimson and Eagles protected their defensive zones well, with both goaltenders stopping every shot fired toward the goal. After the first two periods, BC netminder Molly Schaus — who is fifth in the country in goal against average — tallied a massive 28 saves, while junior Christina Kessler notched 20 for the Crimson. Because both goaltenders played flawlessly through two-and-a-half periods, the two Boston-area rivals knew that the first team to take advantage of an opportunity would undoubtedly be victorious. Unfortunately for the Crimson, the game-winning opportunity presented itself to the Eagles.
In the 31 years of the Women’s Beanpot Tournament, no team has won a championship — or a game for that matter — scoring just once. Yet midway through the final period, undeterred by a penalty that gave the Crimson a late-game power play advantage, Eagles forward and tournament MVP Kelli Stack scored on a shorthanded breakaway goal, wrapping around Kessler to slap in the game-winner, breaking the scoreless tie.
“It’s very tough, especially the way we’ve been playing,” Kessler said after the loss. “We were on a seven-game win streak and we knew this game was going to be tough. They’re a great team, and to their credit they fought all the way through.”
Kessler finished the game with 22 saves, and made crucial stops in the third period that kept the Crimson close. “Kessler played great,” said Crimson head coach Katey Stone. “That [goal] was a no-winner. She couldn’t do anything about that puck. … Tough luck is what happened and they capitalized on our mistakes.”
Stone also praised the play of Schaus, who finished the game with 41 saves and was named the tournament’s most outstanding goaltender. “It was a great hockey game and both goaltenders played great. Molly Schaus certainly carried the play for B.C. today, that’s for sure, and we did a lot of great things. It’s unfortunate that they got a shorthanded goal, but they were very opportunistic.”
“Recently our defense has really stepped up their game which is great to see,” said co-captain Jenny Brine ’09, who netted her fourth career hat trick in last week’s game against BU. “Teams are built from defense out so we’ll take good things from that and move on to the next game.”
Despite losing in the Beanpot final and snapping a seven-game winning streak to fall to 13-8-3, the Crimson have their eyes set on more important goals — an ECAC championship, an NCAA tournament berth, and a National Championship. And after going toe-to-toe with the No. 7 team in the country, the Crimson look as poised as they have been all season to make that run as they hit the road to take on Cornell Friday (Feb. 13) and Colgate Saturday (Feb. 14) in two very important conference matchups.
“Our kids played really well, and [B.C.] played well,” said Stone. “And that’s exactly what you want in a Beanpot championship. The fans got their money’s worth.”