No. 6 Harvard Scores Pair in Third to Beat Yale 3-1 in Playoff Opener

Feb. 23, 2007

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - A pair of goals 104 seconds apart in the third period lifted No. 6 Harvard past Yale 3-1 in the opening game of the two teams' best-of-three ECAC quarterfinal playoff series Friday afternoon at the Bright Center. Yale net minder Shivon Zilis made 35 saves, while Crysti Howser produced the lone Yale goal.

Yale (15-13-2), the sixth seed in the playoffs, had been out shot 12-1 in the first period a week ago at the Bright Center in the second-to-last game of the regular season, eventually falling 4-3 in overtime. The Bulldogs hoped to avoid a similar fate this time around, but third-seeded Harvard (22-6-2) once again controlled play for the majority of the game. Neither team had a shot on goal for the first four minutes, but after Zilis made her first save Harvard began turning up the offensive pressure. U.S. Olympian Julie Chu skated into the Yale zone seven minutes in and, wide open after thinking momentarily about making a pass, snapped off a quick wrister that Zilis was just able to get her glove up for.

With six minutes left in the period, Katie Johnston fed Jenny Brine for another tough shot that Zilis snatched away. The Bulldogs finally tested Harvard goaltender Brittany Martin when a turnover gave Sheila Zingler the chance to get off a wrister in the slot, but Martin made a stick save.

The Bulldogs did their best to help out Zilis, making plays such as the dive to the ice that Helen Resor executed to smother a pass right in front of the Yale net with four minutes remaining in the period. Off the face-off following that play the Crimson caught a tough break when a Jenny Brine shot rattled off the post and bounced out into the crease, where Zilis was eventually able to cover it.

With 1:56 remaining in the first Yale was whistled for the first penalty of the game, giving Harvard's potent power play (26.8 per cent) the chance to operate. Sarah Wilson took the puck in from the neutral zone and tried a wrister that Zilis stopped with her stick with 50 seconds to go. Zingler then blocked a Crimson shot with her stick and cleared the puck all the way to the other end of the ice.

As the penalty kill continued Mandi Schwartz disrupted Harvard's attempt to get the puck to Johnston right in front of the net, and Zilis pounced on the loose puck. Maggie Westfal knocked away one last Crimson attempt just as the period came to a close. Harvard finished the frame with a 15-4 shot edge.

The second period got off to a dangerous start for the Bulldogs when a turnover in the Yale zone 30 seconds in gave Canadian Olympian Sarah Vaillancourt a chance to walk in on Zilis, but the Yale net minder got her stick down to turn aside the shot. Three minutes in Vaillancourt fed Wilson in the slot off a give-and-go, but Zilis made another nifty glove save to keep the game scoreless.

Danielle Kozlowski caused a turnover just outside the Harvard zone that set up Christina Sharun for a slap shot, but that one went just wide. Zilis, who had made 36 saves in the previous week's game, then came through with another gasp-inducing save at 13:30. She got a piece of Randi Griffin's shot from the slot and knocked it up in the air behind her. With heavy traffic closing in, Zilis dove backwards to cover up the loose puck.

"Shivon was outstanding," Yale head coach Hilary Witt said. "I thought what she did better today was she took control of the puck in front of the net. There were some pucks that she jumped on that were huge."

A Yale penalty seven minutes in allowed Harvard to take the lead. Zilis made a glove save on a slap shot from Caitlin Cahow, but shortly after that Wilson fed Johnston from behind the net and she stuffed it in at the 8:09 mark.

A penalty on the Crimson at 12:41 gave the Bulldogs their first power play, but Berit Johnson sent a slap shot just wide and Yale later missed a deflection from right in front.

The Crimson had just gotten back to even strength when Resor blasted a slap shot from the right point that Martin sprawled out to save. But Howser controlled the rebound in front and backhanded it past the Crimson net minder at the 15-minute mark to tie the game.

The goal was the 22nd of the season for Howser, tied for the third-most in a single season in school history. Her 37 points rank her fourth.

The Bulldogs drew a penalty on the Crimson shortly before the second period ended, giving them a brief power play as the third period started. Sharun sailed a slap shot wide, and right after Harvard returned to full strength Wilson knocked home the rebound of a Chu shot at 1:13 to re-take the lead, 2-1.

Shortly after that Johnston fed the puck off the boards to a wide-open Kathryn Farni in the slot, and she wristed it in to make it 3-1.

That changed the complexion of the remainder of the game's final period, as the Bulldogs called timeout with 15:10 left to try to regroup. Midway through the period a nice drop pass from Kozlowski set up Sharun for another shot, but that one was stopped. After that Jenna Spring controlled a long pass from Sarah Tittman and made a nice move to free herself up, but her backhand shot was denied by Martin.

A penalty on the Bulldogs with 9:38 to play further stymied any comeback attempt. Zilis had to glove a Chu slap shot a minute into the penalty kill. Shortly after that Vaillancourt drifted across the slot before trying a slap shot that Zilis stopped, pouncing on the loose rebound.

Yale drew another penalty on Harvard with 2:37 to play, and pulled Zilis for an extra attacker shortly after. The Bulldogs applied pressure, with Martin saving a Sharun shot and Maggie Westfal sending a slap shot wide. Berit Johnson's slap shot as time expired was deflected wide and the Crimson started the celebration.

It was the second tough loss to the Crimson in a week, but Witt did see signs of progress.

"Last week I thought we were on our heels a little more," Witt said. "I thought this week we played a calmer game, but Harvard came out a little harder and a little more disciplined in the third period than we did."

The teams return to action in game two of the best-of-three series Saturday at the Bright Center at 2:00 p.m., broadcast live on WYBC 1340 AM. The winner of the series advances to the ECAC semifinals next weekend.

"I just told them tomorrow we have nothing to lose -- go out there and play hard," Witt said. "If we win the game, we play on Sunday."

report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity

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