Boston, MA - Thanks to a head's up play and consistent hustle until the final whistle, the Clarkson University Women's Hockey team finished off the first period at Harvard with a two-goal advantage and held on for a 3-1 victory to sweep the Crimson in the season series and gain the second slot in next weekend's ECAC Hockey playoffs.
The Golden Knights improved to 26-8-0 overall and 18-4-0 in ECAC Hockey, placing one point behind top-seeded Cornell, while Harvard fell to 20-5-3 overall and 16-3-2 in league games. The Crimson have one more game left to play and could tie Clarkson for second place, but thanks to the Knights' 2-0 record against Harvard, the Green and Gold get the advantage in the playoffs. The Knights also became the first team to beat Harvard at home this season, sending the Crimson to a 10-1-1 mark at Bright Hockey Center.
The Knights and the rest of ECAC Hockey are now set for the playoffs, with Clarkson hosting seventh-seeded Rensselaer next weekend at Cheel Arena.
Clarkson and Harvard opened the game playing evenly, with the Crimson owning a 10-9 edge in shots in the first period, but it was the Golden Knights who would come away with the lead after the first 20 minutes. Junior Carly Mercer (Exeter, ONT) continued to be a one-player wrecking crew against Harvard, scoring the opening goal of the contest at 12:58 in the first period, her 16th goal of the season and the fourth of the year against the Crimson, having recorded a hat trick in the Knights 3-1 victory over Harvard in January. Shannon MacAulay (Mt. Herbert, PEI) gained her seventh assist of the season on the score.
However, it was the Knights' second goal of the period that would put the Crimson on their heels and playing catch up for the final two periods. With the clock ticking down to zero, senior Danielle Skirrow (Trenton, ONT) stole the puck from a Harvard defender behind the net and quickly skated to an open spot to find Vanessa Gagnon (St. Constant, QUE) in the slot and the junior one-timed the pass around Harvard goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer as the buzzer sounded. After review, the goal stood with the lamp being lit with just two-tenths of a second left in the period, giving Clarkson a 2-0 lead during the first intermission.
Harvard would come out strong in the second period and dominated play with an 18-4 edge in shots, but the effort would provide the Crimson with just one goal. Miye D'Oench picked up the puck quickly on transition and skated in by herself against a pair of Clarkson defenders, but was able to wrist a shot over the glove of Erica Howe (Ottawa, ONT) at 11:35 to slice Knights lead in half. Though Clarkson had only four shots on the net, its best opportunity never was recorded as an official shot as the Knights had one attempt whistle past Laura Bellamy, only to clink off the crossbar and back out into open ice.
The Knights needed a victory to clinch the second seed in the playoffs and picked up an insurance goal early in the third period to return the margin to two goals. Vanessa Gagnon skated out of a double team on the boards and put a shot on the Harvard goal, but Bellamy denied the attempt. Fortunately for the Knights, junior Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, ONT) was positioned on the far post and finished off the play with her team-best 19th goal of the season, setting a new Clarkson single-season record for points in the process (45). Olivia Howe (Moose Jaw, SASK) also assisted on the goal, her second helper of the season.
Erica Howe made a career-high 39 saves in the game and the rest of the Clarkson defense did an outstanding job in denying numerous other chances by the Crimson in the game to nullify scoring opportunities. Bellamy made 13 saves in the final two periods for Harvard, following Maschmeyer's seven-save performance in the opening period. Clarkson trailed in shots 40-23.