Combine one part playoff hockey, one part a young team with nothing to lose, and one part an opponent that may have forgotten what it feels like to lose.
Add ice. Stir.
Those items will be in abundance this weekend, when No. 5 Harvard hosts upset-minded Clarkson in the best-of-three opening-round series of the ECAC tournament.
But the top-seeded Crimson, unbeaten since December, is working on a cocktail of its own—one that includes a second straight ECAC tournament title and a run at the NCAA championship.
To get there, Harvard will first have to down the Golden Knights, who qualified for their first-ever ECAC tournament as a No. 8 seed after a successful inaugural conference campaign. For a team in only its second year of Division I play, Clarkson’s 13-15-6 record, including two wins in the last three games to earn a post-season bid, surprised many observers.
“Clarkson is a good team,” head coach Katey Stone said. “They’re hard working, They have a good goaltender, and it’s playoff hockey. It’s really different hockey—there’s a lot more juice in the air.”
But if Clarkson hopes to stand any chance against the Crimson, it will have to score, a task it was unable to accomplish in the two regular season meetings between the teams.
“It was a complete defensive effort,” said junior goalie Ali Boe, who pitched shutouts in each of those games. “We limited second chances and kept the puck out of the zone.”
In the teams’ first game, at the Bright Hockey Center, tri-captain Nicole Corriero scored two goals—once on the power play and once short-handed—and notched two assists to lead Harvard to a 4-0 win.
Golden Knights sophomore goaltender Kira McDonald kept it close with 39 saves, but was ultimately done in by the effectiveness of the Crimson power play, which converted two of six chances.
After that win, however, Harvard dropped five of six games heading into winter vacation, a lengthy slide that sent the team’s record hurtling toward .500 and threatened the squad’s playoff aspirations.
It hasn’t lost since—a span of 15 games over which the Crimson has amassed a 13-0-2 mark and added the Ivy League and ECAC titles to its mantle.
“Part of the turnaround is a lot more people are playing,” Boe said. “A lot more people are stepping up. The team chemistry is back.”
During the streak, Harvard met Clarkson a second time and the result was nearly the same. The Crimson came away with a 5-0 victory, paced by two goals from Julie Chu, but had to find different ways to the net.
The Golden Knights limited Harvard to two power plays, and though it cashed in on one, the bulk of the scoring came at even strength.
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