The Crimson must get past top-ranked Minnesota in the season's final game. (Photo: Jim Rosvold)
MINNEAPOLIS – The Harvard women's hockey team will vie for a national championship on Sunday as the No. 3-seed Crimson (27-5-3) takes on Frozen Four host and No. 1 seed Minnesota (33-3-4) at 4 p.m. ET in Ridder Arena. The Championship game will be streamed live and for free on NCAA.com. Fans can access live stats here, as well.
The First Line
- Harvard is making its four appearance in a National Championship game (third as an NCAA sport), and its first since 2005. Harvard has one national title, coming in 1999, the year before women's ice hockey was sponsored as an NCAA sport.
- On Friday, the Crimson defeated Boston College in the National Semifinals, 2-1. It was the third meeting between the two squads, with Harvard winning the last two meetings (Beanpot Championship game and 2015 Frozen Four).
- This will be the 19th meeting between Harvard and Minnesota. The Gophers own the all-time series, 12-5-1, with the last two meetings going The U's way in 2011-12 (2-1 and 7-3).
Early Bird Special
The key for Harvard in getting to 27 wins this season has been scoring early and often. The Crimson is 17-1-2 when scoring first and owns a 16-1-2 record when taking a lead into the first intermission. Harvard also is a near-perfect 22-1-0 when scoring at least three goals, and is 25-2-2 when holding opponents to two scores or fewer.
Conversely, the Gophers have been held to two or fewer six times out of 40 games this year and has given up at least three goals to opponents five times.
Harvard scores 3.71 goals per game and gives up just 1.51 on the other end, giving the Crimson a 2.20 scoring margin (fourth in the nation). Coincidentally all four Frozen Four participants owned the top-four margins nationally, with Minnesota owning a 3.33, the second most behind BC (3.79)
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Harvard has consistently been atop the national rankings as far as special teams are concerned, never dropping below No. 3 in combined special teams. After Friday, the Crimson holds the third-best power play in the country, scoring 21 goals in 87 attempts (24.1). After killing off three BC power plays (including a five-minute major), Harvard moved to ninth overall on the kill, allowing just 15 goals in 116 opportunities (87.1).
Harvard has consistently proved itself to have one of the deepest forward corps around with its ability to spread the wealth. Seven Crimson skaters have at least 20 points on the year. After scoring the game-winning, shorthanded goal on Friday versus BC, Mary Parker has upped her point total to 39 on the season with 17 goals and 22 assists. Her 1.15 points per game is 15th in the country this season.
She, Miye D'Oench (19-14—33) and Samantha Reber (7-25—32) comprise the top three scorers and the three Crimson to reach 30 points this season. The vision of those three skaters is ever-apparent; D'Oench's quick step can befuddle the best of defensemen, Reber can pinpoint a hole through which to saucer a pass with ease, and Parker is a selfless and smart forward with quick decision-making abilities.
D'Oench's 19 goals is equal to that of Sydney Daniels, who has become one of the more interesting skaters to watch. Daniels' physicality and hard nose to the puck is evident as seven of her 19 scores have held up as game winners. Freshmen Lexie Laing (10-15—25) and Karly Heffernan (9-11—20) have been incredible bright spots on a newly minted all-freshman line, alongside Haley Mullins (5-6—11). Though young, those three Crimson have earned their stripes playing in all 35 games this season.
Blue Line Crew
Led by All-American and the ECAC's Best Defenseman, Sarah Edney, the Harvard D-corps is undoubtedly one of the best in the land. Taking out the uncharacteristic 10-2 loss to BC in late November – while the team was absent Josephine Pucci – the Crimson defense yields a meager 1.26 goals per outing.
Edney is a quiet defenseman that is constantly in the right place at the right time; she is paired up with Olympian and co-captain Michelle Picard, making one of the more deadly D-pairs in the business. The duo are the Crimson's highest-scoring defensemen (9-28—37 combined), and Picard's +31 on-ice is the best on the team.
Pucci and Marissa Gedman are paired together as well, creating a force that is tough to penetrate. Pucci has some of the fastest wheels and coolest nerves on the squad, while Gedman brings physicality and power, mixed with a quick stick. The two have combined for nearly 100 blocks this season alone, easily two of the best at getting in the way of pucks.
A youthful third pair, Briana Mastel and Abbey Frazier are not to be forgotten. Some of the most heady sophomores on the team, the pair won't find the back of the net, but will certainly keep the puck out of the defensive zone and opponents in check.
Minding the Net
Junior Emerance Maschmeyer has put together one of the best late-season runs for a goaltender this year. In the last 21 contests, Maschmeyer is 18-2-1; even that record is a bit misleading as one loss (L, 1-0 vs. Clarkson) and one tie (T, 1-1 vs. St. Lawrence) in the last weekend of the year saw her collect 60+ saves to just two goals allowed while the offense struggled.
On Friday, Maschmeyer turned aside a season-high 43 shots to preserve a thrilling victory over Boston College to claim a spot in the national championship game. The Bruderheim, Alberta, native holds a top-10 ranking in three crucial goaltending categories: Goals Against Average (1.41 – 7th), Save Percentage (.945 – 3rd) and Win Percentage (.780 – 3rd).
A Look at Minnesota
The Gophers of Minnesota come into the national championship game on a two-game win streak, but their 33 wins is second-most in the NCAA this season (BC has 34 victories). After falling to No. 10 Bemidji State in the WCHA First Round in a 1-0 upset, Minnesota romped RIT in the NCAA Quarterfinals and cruised by Wisconsin, 3-1, in the first semifinals of the Frozen Four.
The U has been consistent in scoring (4.50 goals per game – second nationally) and keeping opponents from scoring (1.18 goals per game – second nationally). The key cog that keeps the machine running is junior Hanna Brandt, a Patty Kazmaier Top-3 Finalist this season. Brandt put together an incredible year with 73 points on 33 goals and 40 assists for Minnesota. Sophomore Dani Cameranesi (23-41—64) is a top-10 scorer nationally as well, while Maryanne Menefee (23-23—46) is quite the consistent junior forward to round out the top Gophers.
In net, junior goaltender Amanda Leveille has had an outstanding season to this point as well. Leveille is third in the nation in goals against (1.18) and is second with a spectacular .946 save percentage as well. The Kingston, Ontario, native is 27-3-3 on the year, giving up just 38 goals in 33 starts, with 670 saves.