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After splitting the first two games of the series, a Game 3 winner-take-all matchup was scheduled for Feb. 27 at Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Both No. 6/6 Harvard (22-9-1, 16-5-1 ECAC) and Princeton (13-14-5, 9-10-3 ECAC) knew that a victory would be critical to their NCAA hopes.
The Tigers took game one 4-2 after a third period surge. However, the Crimson would bounce back with a 2-1 overtime victory in the second game to force the decisive battle. Ultimately, Princeton rode to a 3-2 victory in Game 3 behind the strength of goalie Rachel McQuigge and her 38 saves.
“Hats off to their goaltender. She had a heck of a weekend,” said Harvard head coach Katey Stone.
HARVARD 2, PRINCETON 3
For the only time in the series, the Crimson struck first in Game Three. After junior forward Kristin Della Rovere threaded the needle with a perfect pass, senior forward Becca Gilmore converted the one-on-one situation and beat McQuigge to give Harvard the 1-0 edge.
Princeton tied the game up four minutes later, however, when Sharon Frankel’s shot connected following a flurry of shots from the Tigers’ offense. The score remained unchanged in the second as Harvard failed to convert on an early power play opportunity. Another chance to recapture the lead would come and go for the Crimson as Gilmore couldn’t convert on her second one-on-one opportunity midway through the second.
Princeton pulled out to a two-goal lead in the third off of goals from forwards Maggie Connors and Shannon Griffin. With two minutes remaining, Harvard appeared to muster more late game heroics after senior forward Keely Moy looked to have found the back of the net. However, the goal would be reviewed and overturned due to goalie interference. Junior forward Anne Bloomer later scored a goal from behind the end line in the final minutes, but the clock ultimately ran out on the Crimson.
After the game, Stone pinpointed Princeton’s defense as a key factor in the outcome of the game.
“They were pretty stingy about giving us second and third chance opportunities,” she said.
HARVARD 2, PRINCETON 1 (OT)
The defenses of both Harvard and Princeton shined in the first period of Game Two, as the teams managed to combine for just 13 shots on goal. Each team was also successful on the penalty kill in the opening frame. Throughout the period, the Crimson continued to play with intensity and build momentum. With each shot on goal and save, the Harvard bench would erupt and give life to the crowd of 275 in Bright-Landry.
Princeton forward Grace Kuipers finally got the scoring going four minutes into the second. In the next few minutes, the Crimson dominated possession, but was unable to convert on its many quality chances. After Harvard successfully defended the power play for the second time, the Tigers ultimately entered the third with a one-goal lead.
The Crimson capitalized on its quality chances one minute into the third period, after sophomore Shannon Hollands emerged from a scramble with the puck and fired it into the cage. Although neither team would score for the rest of the third, each unit had its chances. At the five minute mark, Harvard went on the power play after Princeton was called for checking. The Tigers also created good opportunities to score after a communication error for the Crimson led to it playing down a player for 15 seconds. Junior goaltender Lindsay Reed also made a key save around the 15-minute mark to send it to overtime.
Needing a win to force a decisive Game 3, the message in the locker room before overtime was straightforward.
“We just talked about keeping the energy high,” Della Rovere said. “Our mindset was to keep pushing and we knew we were going to win.”
The Caledon East, Ont. native wasted no time making good on her promise after the overtime puck drop. After winning the opening faceoff, she took a pass from Bloomer and guided the puck through traffic to score the game winner. The goal was also her 100th career point, making her just the 26th member of the 100 point club for Harvard.
“It’s a real honor,” Della Rovere said. “It is a milestone for everyone, not just myself”.
HARVARD 2, PRINCETON 4
Six minutes into the game, Princeton scored the first goal of the weekend when Connors swung a pass left to forward Annie Kuehl, who proceeded to hook it into the back of the cage. The Crimson then went on the power play seven minutes later due to a tripping call against the Tigers, but Princeton’s power play unit held strong. However, the Crimson would tie up the game late in the first period off of a goal from senior forward Brooke Jovanovich. Jovanovich found the net after gaining possession from a tie up along the boards. The goal was the third in as many games against Princeton for Jovanovich.
The second period followed much the same script as the first. Three minutes into the second frame, the Tigers regained the lead when Frankel pushed the puck across the line after several saves from Reed. Nine minutes later, Princeton got an opportunity to expand its lead as it went on the power play. However, Harvard killed off the penalty. The Crimson found its equalizer in the final minute of the frame, as senior defender Kate Glover brought the puck up the ice and guided it in.
Early in the third, the Tigers pulled ahead again thanks to a goal from Griffin. However, the goal came with controversy, and was only allowed following a lengthy review from the officials. Princeton’s lead grew to two after another goal from Griffin 15 minutes into the third. Harvard got one final chance at a comeback after a minor penalty was assessed to the Tigers in the final two minutes, but Princeton was able to fight off the power play and hold on for the victory.
After dropping the first match, Coach Stone believed that her team could improve their speed. She also emphasized a more physical approach to the next game.
“We can move the puck faster, we can get on pucks faster,” she said. “[We can] put a body on them to slow them down.”
Game One also featured Moy’s return to the lineup following her stint representing Switzerland at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Entering the game, she had not played since the Jan. 21 matchup, also against the Tigers.
Despite entering the weekend fifth in the nation in power play percentage, the Crimson failed to generate a power play goal in the series.
“The best penalty kill starts with the goaltender,” Stone said. “Their goalie gave them what they needed on their PK”.
Now, Harvard’s fate rests in the hands of the selection committee. The Crimson’s resume features quality accomplishments like the Ivy League title, Beanpot Championship, and ECAC regular season championship; however, it also features only one out-of-conference win against a ranked opponent.
Currently, Harvard ranks ninth in the PairWise rankings. In the past, this would leave the Crimson on the outside looking in. However, the NCAA decided to expand the tournament from eight to eleven teams starting this season. The bracket is revealed for the 2022 NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Tournament on Sunday, March 6.
–Staff writer Christopher D. Wright can be reached at email@example.com.
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