The number one women’s hockey team in the nation narrowly escaped Starr Rink unscathed last Friday. Harvard, also the class of the ECAC, gave up a two-goal lead to a determined Colgate squad, but ultimately the Crimson survived with an exciting 3-2 victory.
Harvard looked poised to cruise to yet another victory by jumping out to a 2-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. Kathryn Farni scored on a power-play goal just 3:36 into the contest and Anna McDonald notched a goal just over two minutes later. Just when it appeared as if things were getting out of hand, however, the Raiders composed themselves and rallied.
“We came out a little flat-footed and Harvard jumped out to a two-goal lead,” sophomore Marissa Dombovy said. “But as the game went on, we settled down into our system.”
Sophomore Beth Rotenberg cut the deficit in half at 13:55 of the first period when she received a perfect pass from first-year Hannah Milan and slapped a one-timer past Harvard’s Christina Kessler for Colgate’s first goal of the game. With the early Crimson onslaught halted and a goal on the board, the Raiders were filled with confidence despite trailing by a goal at the first intermission.
That confidence translated into results on the ice in the second period. After failing to record a shot in the first nine minutes of the period, the Raiders proved that quality trumps quantity as Milan fired a one-timer into the back of the net to tie the game at two. Senior Mallory Johnston and first-year Jessi Waters recorded the assists on the game-tying goal. Milan’s tally was the only goal of the period as the score was knotted at two going into the second intermission.
The third period featured ample opportunities for both sides. After 15 minutes past by in the third period, the game looked like it might head for overtime. This was partially because first-year goalie Lisa Plenderleith suddenly morphed into Patrick Roy. With the game on the line, she made some mind-boggling saves that will unfortunately never be seen on YouTube. Her most impressive stops were a low-glove save on a Sarah Vaillancourt shot through immense traffic and an impressive 360-kick save a little bit later. Overall though, what was most impressive was her poise in the clutch, as Harvard controlled the puck for the vast majority of the third period in Colgate’s zone.
At 15:54 of the period, Milan was called for a tripping penalty to put the Crimson on the power play. The man-advantage was negated just 38 seconds later when Harvard was called for interference, and just 29 seconds after that Harvard was called again, this time for obstruction hooking, giving the Raiders an improbable four-on-three advantage with 2:59 remaining in the game.
Then the goal was scored. The Raiders envisioned a late power play tally to pull one of the biggest upsets in the history of Colgate athletics. Instead, a tough bounce gave Harvard’s Sarah Vaillancourt a breakaway. The showdown between the leading ECAC point-scorer and the goalie that was suddenly on fire was on. Unfortunately, Vaillanocurt won this battle and put the puck past first-year goaltender Lisa Plenderleith. Colgate put out an extra attacked but couldn’t score the game-tying goal. Plenderleigh recorded 24 saves, 12 alone in the third period, in a valiant effort, and Milan recorded a goal and an assist in the best collegiate game of her career.
“Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong end of a game we all knew that we could have and probably should have won,” Plenderleith said afterwards. “They got one more bounce than we did; we could have easily been on the winning end of that game. We did everything we could have to win that game.”
After the emotions of the Harvard game on Friday night, the Raiders had to come out Saturday afternoon and take on Dartmouth, a perennial women’s hockey power and one of the ECAC’s finest. The game lacked the excitement and energy of Friday’s affair. Dartmouth led 1-0 after two periods thanks to an Amanda Trunzo goal. However, Dartmouth’s Maggie Kennedy scored two of the Big Green’s three third period goals to capture a 4-1 victory on Senior Day. Junior Sam Hunt provided a positive note as she became Colgate’s Division I leader in career goals with her 55th tally in three seasons.
“We did not play consistently well throughout the whole Dartmouth game,” Hunt said. “And we didn’t have tight enough coverage in the defensive zone.We didn’t play our systems as well as we did on Friday night either.”
“After an exhausting game like Friday’s, it was hard to come out with the same intensity that we had the night before,” junior Kiira Dosdall added. “The game was a bit slower, and Dartmouth just took the momentum with their third goal late in the third period.”
All was not lost for the Raiders, however, as they still finished the ECAC regular season ranked sixth, good enough to earn a spot in the playoffs. Their reward is a trip to Hanover for a best two-of-three series against the same Dartmouth squad.
“I truly believe that this team has the potential and the ability to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Plenderleith added. “Every day, I think to myself that it’s going to take four more wins to get to that point. When you think about it, four wins doesn’t seem like very much. If we have the right attitude and put forth our best effort as a team, I really think we are going to surprise a lot of people.”
Colgate starts its quest for postseason glory on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. If necessary, the decisive game three is Sunday at 7 p.m.