January 8, 2011

Early Lead Does Not Hold as Rensselaer Tops Women’s Hockey, 2-1

Ashley Wheeler notched her first goal of the season against RPI (Gil Talbot).

TROY, N.Y. –
A first-period goal gave the Harvard women's hockey team an early lead but host Rensselaer manufactured a goal in the second and third periods to claim a 2-1 victory Saturday at Houston Field House. Harvard dips to 6-7-2, 5-3-2 in conference play while RPI overtakes the Crimson for fourth in the league standings with a 6-3-1 league mark.

The Crimson, determined to snap its three-game streak without a first period goal, did just that midway through the first against the Engineers. Josephine Pucci worked the puck into the Rensselaer zone to Ashley Wheeler and Wheeler dished to Katharine Chute near the left faceoff circle. Chute slid the puck back to Wheeler who tipped the puck past RPI goalie Sonja van der Bliek on a diving attempt to give Harvard a 1-0 lead at 8:55 of the first. The Crimson killed two RPI power-plays down the stretch to maintain a 1-0 edge at the break.

Harvard looked sharp to start the second, killing off a third power-play in the early going. The Engineers upped the pressure considerably in the back half of the stanza and with the Crimson defense struggling to clear the zone, the hosts finally broke through. With 6:19 left in the period, Taylor Horton bested Harvard goalie Laura Bellamy off an assist from Andie LeDonne, knotting the score at 1-1.

A pair of Harvard penalties late in the period put the hosts on a 5-on-3 advantage for over a minute, but the Crimson allowed just one shot on the 5-on-3 and rode clutch saves from Bellamy to kill off the remaining infraction. RPI fired 12 shots on net in the frame, but the score remained tied at 1-1 through two.

The Harvard defense looked set to start the third, killing off its sixth penalty of the day with relative ease. The trouble came just past the halfway point of the third when matching penalties resulted in a 4-on-4 situation for two minutes. RPI used the space effectively and LeDonne picked off a pass at the Harvard blueline, burying the ensuing shot past Bellamy on her glove side.

The Crimson pulled its goalie in the final minute and managed a few good looks but could not find the equalizer, sealing the 2-1 final. Pucci picked up her fourth point of the weekend and Bellamy finished with 19 saves in goal. Wheeler's goal was her first on the season.

Up next for the Crimson: a four game home stand, beginning with a Jan. 14 showdown against ECAC opponent St. Lawrence at 7 p.m.