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Five-OT Thriller Decides ECAC Playoff Series

March 1, 2010

The No. 4 Harvard women’s hockey team’s road to the ECAC tournament semifinals was smooth. 5-1 and 4-1 trouncings of Princeton gave the third-seeded Crimson a spot in the conference final four.

Rensselaer, on the other hand, did not have such an easy time of it.

The best-of-three series between fourth-seeded Quinnipiac and the fifth-seeded Engineers will go down as one of the most dramatic in ECAC history.

Friday night’s Game 1 got interesting when Bobcat Kallie Flor scored with just over five minutes to play in the game to tie the score at one. 8:46 into double overtime, her teammate Chelsea Illchuk lit the lamp to give Quinnipiac a 2-1 victory.

Though Saturday’s Game 2 was decided in regulation, it was just as tight a contest—Rensselaer came away with a 1-0 win on the strength of an Alisa Harrison power-play tally.

But none of that compared to the drama of Game 3.

With their seasons on the line—the winner promised a place in the conference semis, and the loser sent home—each squad left everything on the ice.

Regulation ended, again, with the score knotted at one after a late-game Quinnipiac tally. Overtime after overtime passed with nothing to add to the score sheet except more saves for the Engineers’ Sonja van der Bliek and the Bobcats’ Victoria Vigilanti.

And finally, in the fifth overtime, Rensselaer captain Laura Gersten put an end to things.

The senior took a pass from Whitney Naslund and put the puck just over Vigilanti’s glove—a shot that hit the crossbar and dropped straight down, causing a deliberation amongst the officials, who eventually ruled it a goal.

Van der Bliek finished with 49 saves while Vigilanti recorded 57. It was the longest NCAA-sponsored women’s hockey game in history at 145 minutes, just 1:03 shy of breaking the record set by the 1996 ECAC Championship game between New Hampshire and Providence.

Now the Engineers—led by Gersten, who also scored the overtime game-winner in last year’s ECAC semifinal, when Rensselaer upset top-seeded Harvard, 3-2—advance to play No. 1 seed Cornell in Friday’s semifinal matchup, while Quinnipiac heads home heartbroken.

The Crimson will travel to Potsdam, N.Y. on Friday to take on second-seeded Clarkson. The semifinal winners will advance to Sunday’s championship game, which will be hosted by the highest-remaining seed.


Three Crimson Players Selected For All-ECAC Teams

February 25, 2010

Three members of the No. 4 Harvard women’s hockey team were honored on All-ECAC teams, the league office announced this afternoon.

Junior forward Kate Buesser, junior defenseman Leanna Coskren, and freshman forward Jillian Dempsey all earned recognition for their efforts in conference play this season.

Buesser headlines the group, as she earned a spot on the conference first team. The winger was second in the league in scoring, tallying 32 points in 22 ECAC games. Buesser leads the Crimson with 35 total points this season on 13 goals and 22 assists, and she is tops in the conference with a +22 rating for the season. The junior was named a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award last week.

Coskren, a third-team selection, is also a Kazmaier finalist. The blueliner has 17 points on the season, including six goals. She is 18th in the nation amongst defenseman with 0.59 points per contest and anchors Harvard’s third-ranked defense.

Dempsey earned a spot on the conference’s All-Rookie squad after a season in which she ranked eighth nationally among freshmen with 0.79 points per game. Dempsey is second on the Crimson with 23 points this season on 10 goals and 13 assists.

In additional news from the ECAC office, senior Randi Griffin, the reigning conference player of the week, is a nominee for the ECAC Hockey Student-Athlete of the Year award. Griffin scored four goals over the weekend, including her first career hat trick.

Harvard earned the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, which begins this weekend. The Crimson hosts sixth-seeded Princeton in a best-of-three series beginning Friday night. The puck drops at 7 pm at Bright Hockey Center.

Former Harvard Players Faring Well

February 17, 2010

As the Harvard women’s hockey team enters the final weekend of its regular season entangled in a tight race for postseason home-ice advantage, five of its alumnae are playing for a different kind of hockey prize.

The Olympic women’s hockey tournament opened on Saturday in Vancouver, and Americans Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04, Julie Chu ’06-’07, and Caitlin Cahow ’07-’08 and Canadians Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03 and Sarah Vaillancourt ’08-’09 are skating for Olympic gold.

The Americans and Canadians are far and away the top two teams in the world and are both heavily favored to advance to the gold-medal game—though as the US team learned in 2006, being favored is not enough, as the Americans were upset by Sweden in the semifinals and had to settle for bronze. But through three days of competition, both squads are living up to the hype.

Canada set the tone in front of its hometown crowd on Saturday with an 18-0 shellacking of Slovakia, the biggest offensive output in Olympic history. Vaillancourt had a goal and two assists against Slovakia and followed up that performance with a goal and an assist in a 10-1 win over Switzerland yesterday.

Botterill added an assist on the Canadians’ final goal in Saturday’s rout.

Not to be outdone, the Americans cruised to a 12-1 win over China on Sunday afternoon. Harvard players bookended the scoring for the US squad, with Ruggiero opening the game with a breakaway backhand early in the first before Chu capped the game with a tally off a rebound from American captain Natalie Darwitz.

Chu also had two assists on the afternoon.

The US team takes on Russia this afternoon at 5:30 pm Eastern time. Both the Canadians and the Americans still have their toughest preliminary matchup ahead of them—Canada plays Sweden tomorrow, and the US plays Finland on Thursday. Those four teams are favored to advance to the medal round.

Kessler Shines on International Stage

January 12, 2010

Manifest Kesstiny

Senior goalie Christina Kessler of the Harvard women’s hockey team took another tour on the international circuit last week, backstopping the Canadian U-22 squad to a gold medal at the MLP Cup in Ravensburg, Germany.

Kessler blanked Switzerland in a 9-0 win in the gold-medal game—the netminder’s fourth shutout with the U-22 team, tying a Canadian record.

The senior was the winner in net in both Canada’s 4-1 preliminary win over Switzerland and a 4-3 overtime nailbiter against Sweden—the defending MLP champions—in the semifinals.

It was the third international appearance for the goaltender, who was part of Canada’s silver-medal squad at the MLP Cup last year and also played in a 2008 series against the American U-22 team.

Though Kessler’s trip overseas yielded a great deal of success, her Crimson teammates stumbled in her absence. Harvard tied Princeton, 3-3, on Friday before losing to Quinnipiac, 1-0, on Saturday despite holding a 22-shot advantage in the contest.

Rookie Laura Bellamy got her first two starts in net for the Crimson, recording a combined 21 saves over the weekend

Harvard slipped to No. 6 in the national polls this morning, but the team has a chance to rebound against Cornell, which slipped out of the rankings today for the first time since early November, at home on Friday.