Archive for the ‘W. Hockey’ Category

March Madness On Ice

March 11, 2010

It’s March, and that means it’s time for Madness. But while you’re anxiously researching sleeper picks for your bracket, it’s worth pointing out that for some sports, tourney time is already here.

Eight teams have qualified for this year’s NCAA women’s hockey championship, including fourth-seeded Harvard, who finished third in regular-season ECAC play and was bounced in the conference semifinals.

Yes, you heard that right. The Crimson has secured the only home-ice berth from the ECAC, despite being the third-best program in conference play. Now how the heck did that happen?

Harvard entered play last weekend fourth in both the polls and the computer rankings, and a tournament championship would surely secure the squad its second home NCAA game in three seasons.

Then the Crimson fell to Clarkson, then ranked sixth by the computers, on Friday night, and the chances of a top-four seed looked slim.

But after Harvard lost, everything else fell in its favor. New Hampshire, sitting in fifth and looking like a prime candidate to grab home-ice advantage, got walloped, 4-0, by then-unranked Boston University in the Hockey East semifinals.

Clarkson became the heir apparent to the No. 4 slot, and the Golden Knights promptly lost to Cornell in overtime of the ECAC championship.

And the Big Red, despite winning both the conference regular-season and tournament titles, went a miserable 1-6 in non-conference play during the regular season, leaving the Crimson—with its stronger schedule—as the last team standing.

Harvard went 1-3-4 against the tournament field this season, losing to Cornell once and Clarkson twice. It recorded ties against the Big Red, the Golden Knights, New Hampshire, and Minnesota, and it defeated the Gophers—the No. 3 seed—1-0 at Bright in December.

The Crimson will host Cornell Friday night at 7 p.m. at Bright Hockey Center, with the winner advancing to play either No. 1 Mercyhurst or No. 8 BU next Friday in the Frozen Four.

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Women’s Hockey Alum Chosen to Represent Olympians

February 26, 2010

Among casual sports fans, her name may not earn the immediate recognition of Bode Miller, Apolo Anton Ohno, or Lindsey Vonn, but when it came to selecting a representative, Olympic athletes chose Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 of the US women’s hockey team, currently competing for a gold medal as I write.

Ruggiero was selected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, which represents the concerns of athletes to the IOC.

The 2004 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, Ruggiero won gold with the team in 1998 in Nagano before taking silver with the team in Salt Lake City and bronze in Turin.

When interviewed by NBC after the first period, Ruggiero said she was “thrilled” to be selected to the 19-person committee. Ruggiero was selected for an eight-year term along with bobsledder Adam Pengilly of Great Britain.

The selection will allow Ruggiero to express the views of athletes in Olympic planning. But it won’t help her against Canada, which currently has a two-goal lead in the gold-medal game.

Among casual sports fans, her name may not earn the immediate recognition of Bode Miller, Apolo Anton Ohno, or Lindsey Vonn, but when it came to selecting a representative, athletes chose Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 of the US women’s hockey team, currently competing for a gold medal as I write.

Ruggiero was selected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission. The athletes’ commission represents the concerns of athletes to the IOC.

The 2004 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, Ruggiero won gold with the team in 1998 in the Nagano Olympics before taking silver with the team in Salt Lake City and bronze in Turino

When interviewed by NBC after the first period, Ruggiero said she was “thrilled” to be selected to the 19 person committee. Ruggiero was selected for an eight year commission along with bobsledder Adam Pengilly of Great Britain.

The selection will allow Ruggiero to express the views of athletes in Olympic planning. But it won’t help her against Canada, which currently has a two goal lead in the gold medal game.

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.

Alumnae Square Off for Gold

February 24, 2010

All five of Harvard’s 2010 Olympians will be playing for gold on Thursday.

Only two teams remain in contention for Vancouver’s top prize, and as predicted, the two-time defending world champion American squad will take on the favored Canadians in the gold-medal game.

As has become the norm in this Olympic tournament, Crimson alumnae featured prominently in both of yesterday’s semifinal wins.

In the early game, the US squad took on Sweden with revenge on its mind. The Swedes shocked the Americans in the 2006 Olympic semifinals, charging back from a 2-0 deficit to win the game in a shootout. It was the first time a US or Canadian squad had ever fallen to a non-North American opponent in international competition.

In 2010, the American women guaranteed that they would improve on their bronze-medal finish in Torino, routing Sweden, 9-1. With Swedish netminder Kim Martin, who plays for Minnesota-Duluth, not on her game, the door was open for the US offense—and the Americans capitalized.

Monique Lamoureux, who will suit up for the University of North Dakota next year, tallied a hat trick while all three Harvard players got in on the fun.

Caitlin Cahow ’07-’08 led the way with a goal—a long shot from the point that banked off the top right corner of the cage and fell in—and an assist. Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 tallied the team’s third goal, while Julie Chu ’06-’07 assisted on Kelli Stack’s third-period score.

In the nightcap, the vaunted Canadian offense hit a bit of a roadblock: Finnish goaltender Noora Raty, who excelled in the crease for the University of Minnesota this season before joining her national team.

Raty held the Canadians to five goals on 50 shots, but Finland’s offense offered the standout no support, and the hometown favorites advanced to the final with a 5-0 win.

Sarah Vaillancourt ’08-’09 assisted on Haley Irwin’s goal, with the other assist credited to star Cornell forward Rebecca Johnston. Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03 was again quiet—the veteran has just one assist in these Olympics—but she will have the chance to earn her third-consecutive gold medal later this week.

The US and Canada will face off for Vancouver’s top prize at 6:30 pm EST on Thursday. The game will be broadcast live on MSNBC and nbcolympics.com.

Four Women’s Hockey Players Nominated for Kazmaier Award

February 18, 2010

Continuing a storied Harvard tradition, four women’s hockey players have been nominated for the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to the best player in collegiate women’s hockey.

Senior Christina Kessler and juniors Kate Buesser, Liza Ryabkina, and Leanna Coskren are among 45 nominees for the award. The list of nominees was released by USA Hockey today.

Kessler, a goaltender, finished her career with the Crimson career wins and shutouts records, as well as the NCAA career save percentage record. The senior held a 9-3-3 record this season before her year was ended with an ACL injury in January, but she still ranks fifth nationally in save percentage (.944) and sixth in goals-against average (1.39).

Buesser, a forward, is Harvard’s leading scorer this season, tallying 33 points on 13 goals and 20 assists. She ranks second among ECAC players with 30 conference points, and stands 19th nationally with 1.22 points per game.

Ryabkina has been an offensive force since returning from a dislocated knee in late November, scoring 11 goals in 18 games. Five of those goals came in the Beanpot, and the winger was named tournament MVP for her efforts. Ryabkina’s four game-winning goals are good for eighth in the country.

Coskren’s 16 points are tops among Crimson defenders, and her 15 conference points are third-best among ECAC blueliners. The majority of Coskren’s offensive production has come on the power play, and she is tied for first in conference play with 10 power-play points. The junior also anchors Harvard’s defense, which ranks second nationally with 1.44 goals allowed per game.

The Kazmaier Award has gone to a Crimson player six times in its 12-year history. A.J. Mleczko ’97-’99, Jennifer Botterill ’02-’03, Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04, Julie Chu ’06-’07, and Sarah Vaillancourt ’08-’09 are Harvard’s previous winners, with Botterill taking the trophy twice.

The top 10 finalists for the award will be announced on March 2. The Kazmaier trophy will be presented on March 20 in Minneapolis, Minn. in conjunction with the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four.

—Kate Leist

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.

The Top Five Moments of Christina Kessler’s Career

January 26, 2010

Suddenly and unceremoniously, the Christina Kessler Era is over for the Harvard women’s hockey team. The standout senior goaltender tore her ACL during practice last week, ending her season and college career. There’s plenty of hockey left for Kessler, who is on the Canadian Under-22 team and will likely be a national team fixture for years to come, but her loss deals the Crimson (10-5-4, 8-5-2 ECAC) a devastating blow. The squad faces the ECAC playoff hunt and seeks an NCAA Tournament bid with untested rookie Laura Bellamy starting between the pipes and junior Kylie Stephens returning to the squad as a backup.

Kessler’s tenure with Harvard ends with her name scribbled all over the school and NCAA record books. She holds the Crimson’s all-time wins and shutout marks with 64 and 25, respectively. In her sophomore year, Kessler notched 12 shutouts—at the time an NCAA record (Wisconsin’s Jessie Vetter tallied 14 blank sheets last season). Kessler finishes her career with a .9413 save percentage, which places her just ahead of Vetter (.9407) as the NCAA’s all-time leader.

As a tribute to the decorated netminder, The Back Page looks back on the top five moments of Kessler’s career:

5) HARVARD 4, MINNESOTA-DULUTH 0 (DEC. 2, 2006)

Kessler burst onto the college hockey scene as a rookie in 2006, picking up a pair of shutouts in her first three starts. Her clean sheet against the Bulldogs was part of a 150-minute stretch in which the freshman held her opponents scoreless.

Playing in a platoon with Brittany Martin ’09, Kessler gave Harvard coach Katey Stone uncanny depth inside the crease.

““They’re two of the best goalies in college hockey,” Stone said after the game. “How could you have one on the bench?”

4) HARVARD 2, ST. LAWRENCE 0 (JAN. 11, 2008)

With Martin hurt during the beginning of the 2007-08 campaign, the starting goalie job was Kessler’s to lose. The Oakville, Ont. native responded emphatically, putting together a transcendent season in which she led the Crimson to a 32-2-0 record and an NCAA Frozen Four bid.

On Jan. 11, Kessler blanked St. Lawrence with a 29-save effort. The 2-0 victory capped off a three-game stretch in which Kessler shutout a trio of tough opponents: Colgate, Boston College, and the Saints. The win also tied Kessler with Ali Boe ’06 for Harvard’s single-season shutout record of seven, a mark that Kessler would soon shatter.

3) HARVARD 0, MINNESOTA 0 (DEC. 5, 2009)

The Crimson’s historic 2007-08 season set a lofty and perhaps unrealistic standard for Harvard to uphold. The following season—Kessler’s junior campaign—was a disappointment for the goalie and for the Crimson as a whole, ending in overtime in the ECAC semifinals against a supposedly outclassed RPI squad.

But while Harvard hasn’t reclaimed its former dominance this season, it has performed beyond expectations considering it lost its top three scorers from last year to graduation. Prior to her injury, Kessler had been the anchor of the Crimson’s resurgence, posting a .944 save percentage and a 1.38 goals against average.

Kessler’s return to form was most evident when No. 2 Minnesota came to Cambridge for a weekend set. After the goalie shut out the Golden Gophers, 1-0, on Dec. 4, she returned to the ice the next night and repeated the feat. Harvard also couldn’t find net and settled for a tie, but the Crimson once again established itself as a national contender, with Kessler leading the charge.

2) HARVARD 2, CLARKSON 0 (MAR. 8, 2008)

The Crimson’s win over the Golden Knights was far from Kessler’s best performance of the 2007-08 season. Harvard dominated play and held Clarkson to just 13 shots, handing Kessler an easy shutout.

But the clean sheet marked Kessler’s 12th of the season and 15th of her career, extending her NCAA single-season record and tying her with Boe as the Crimson’s all-time shutout leader.

1) HARVARD 5, COLGATE 1 (JAN. 16, 2010)

It’s doubtful that Kessler ever imagined ending her playing days for Harvard in a routine 5-1 win during the regular season in a sparsely populated Bright Hockey Center. But the Crimson’s victory over the Raiders less than two weeks ago turned out to be the last in one of the most storied careers in Harvard history.

The win wasn’t without significance. It was the 64th for Kessler, putting her one ahead of Boe as the Crimson’s all-time leader and cementing her place as quite arguably the greatest goalie in Harvard history.

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.

Three Alums Make US Olympic Team

December 20, 2009
Angela Ruggiero '02-'04

With the Winter Olympics less than two months away, the US women’s hockey team is set, and three Harvard skaters will be making the trip to Vancouver.

Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04, Julie Chu ’06-’07, and Caitlin Cahow ’07-’08 are among the 21 players on the Olympic roster, which was released Thursday. (more…)