As the clock wound down in the third period, Harvard held a 3-2 lead over Yale. Then, with 14.1 seconds remaining in regulation, Bulldog senior defender Saroya Tinker executed a shot from the point which Dalton successfully redirected in the air, steering the puck past Crimson sophomore goaltender Lindsay Reed’s shoulder to send the game into overtime.
For the subsequent two twenty-minute overtime periods, Harvard (18-13-1, 15-6-1 ECAC) and Yale (17-15-0, 13-9-0 ECAC) fought an evenly matched, scoreless battle. While both teams fired pucks towards the net, all either sailed wide, rang iron, or were blocked by the goaltender. Neither team incurred a penalty. The contest appeared locked in an endless 3-3 tie.
Then, at the 17:21 mark in the third overtime, junior forward Becca Gilmore redirected captain Kat Hughes’ shot into the net, sending Harvard to the Conference semifinals. After over 100 long, hard-fought minutes of hockey, the Crimson emerged victorious.
“We were able to get a quick shot on net, Kristin [Della Rovere] didn’t let up on the play, and Kat worked really hard to get [the puck] out of the corner, and after the shot, I was able to just get up on the net and get the puck and kind of shoot my own rebound,” Gilmore said. “Not a fancy goal but just getting a lot of traffic to the net.”
Gilmore was named ECAC Player of the Week for her combined four goals and one assist during the ECAC Quarterfinals, including the series winner.
The conference quarterfinals this past weekend featured a best-of-three series against the Bulldogs. Harvard went 2-0 against Yale in the regular season, though going into Friday’s game, the two teams hadn’t met since Dec. 6. The Crimson emerged victorious in game one, though it faltered in an overtime loss in Saturday’s game two. Harvard entered Sunday’s game looking to eliminate Yale and advance to the conference semifinals.
At the game’s onset, possession constantly shifted between the Crimson and the Bulldogs as each team struggled to gain the edge on the ice. After a scoreless first period, the momentum shifted in the second when both teams received simultaneous penalties. 48 seconds later, sophomore forward Kristin Della Rovere took a long shot down the ice which Yale goaltender Gianna Meloni batted behind the net. Della Rovere raced forward, giving the Bulldogs no time to regroup as she intercepted a Yale defender behind the net and stole the puck, wrapping around the backside of the goal and slipping the puck past an open post. The unassisted tally put Harvard up 1-0 with 16:57 to go in the second.
However, 6:25 into the second stanza, the Bulldogs responded with a score of their own. Yale sophomore forward Charlotte Welch skated into the Crimson’s zone before completing a short pass back to fellow sophomore forward Claire Dalton, who was following just behind her. Dalton deftly received the puck and found twine by nailing a hard shot past Harvard goaltender Lindsay Reed. Welch, who had the assist, also notched three scores in Saturday’s game two.
Penalties characterized Saturday’s contest, with the two teams combining for 41 total penalty minutes. However, in Sunday’s rematch, the first penalty did not arrive until the final second of the first stanza, when Yale first-year forward Grace Lee headed to the box for checking. While Sunday yielded only 14 total penalty minutes, the match-up produced three power-play goals.
9:38 into the third period, Yale senior forward Kirsten Nergaard headed to the penalty box for roughing. Della Rovere capitalized on the power play opportunity with her second score of the day, receiving a pass from junior forward Keely Moy and shooting the puck through traffic to put the Crimson up 2-1.
“Maryna [Macdonald] did a great job of keeping the puck in, and Keely just came around the net with the possession and gave me a perfect pass that I was able to bury with a shot,” Della Rovere explained, adding that, “having the man advantage and knowing you have more time with the puck is very useful.”
The Bulldogs responded less than three minutes later with a power-play goal of their own. After sophomore defender Maryna Macdonald received a two minute minor for high sticking, Yale launched a flurry of attempts in front of the net, culminating in Lee sliding the puck past Reed to even the score. Welch added her second assist of the day on the play.
Harvard’s second power-play goal arrived after Welch went to the box for checking. With 1:16 left in the third, Moy controlled a pass from junior forward Brooke Jovanovich directly in front of the net and fired the puck past Meloni to give the Crimson a 3-2 lead late in regulation.
However, the game was far from over, as Yale’s late tying goal would send the game into over 42 minutes of overtime.
“There were some very special moments just getting ready to go back out there,” said Della Rovere about the atmosphere in the locker room between overtime periods. “I think that everyone in the locker room knew that we were going to come out successful, so we were just trying to keep the energy high and keep working hard.”
Indeed, the team’s perseverance and tenacity paid off with Gilmore’s game-winning goal.
“That was probably one of the best wins I’ve been a part of in my Harvard hockey career,” Gilmore said.
Harvard will head to Ithaca to face host and one-seed Cornell on Saturday, March 7 at 1 p.m. in the ECAC Conference Semifinals.
— Staff writer Isabel A. Levin can be reached at email@example.com.