RPI women’s hockey started off the new semester with a bang, tallying two wins over opponents that have given the squad much trouble in the past. The Engineers took their first-ever program victory over the Dartmouth College Big Green on Friday by a score of 2-1, followed by their second program victory over the No. 7 Harvard University Crimson by a 4-2 margin on Saturday afternoon. This marks the first weekend sweep for RPI since early December, when the Engineers took down Union College in a home-and-home series. The two wins push RPI to an even 10-10-5 overall and 7-4-3 in conference play, while Dartmouth falls to 6-11-2 overall and 4-9-1 in the ECAC. Nationally-ranked Harvard drops to 10-5-4 overall and 8-5-2 in league action.
“It felt unbelievable,” said senior Laura Gersten of the win. “Dartmouth and St. Lawrence are the two teams we still had not beaten since the rest of the seniors and I have been here. It felt great to knock Dartmouth off that list. To able to play back to back games and come out with four points on the road is great for our team right now. It helps the morale in the locker room and also where we stand in the league.”
Rensselaer’s prior meeting with the Big Green came in the ECAC Hockey Championship game last season, in which Dartmouth skated away with a 6-1 victory, and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Home-standing Dartmouth hit the boards first with junior Alyssa Boehm’s first goal of the year at 14:10 of the second period. Neither team was able to hit the back of the net in the opening period of play, despite the Big Green holding a 22-5 advantage in shots on net. Senior Allysen Weidner tied the game at one with her fourth mark of the year, off a pass from junior linemate Kendra Dunlop at 18:01.
The Engineers claimed the lead at 8:51 of the third period as senior Allison Wright netted her eighth of the year, with assists going to Weidner and Dunlop. It was a fight to the end for RPI as Dartmouth had many attempts to knot the game up at two, but junior goaltender Sonja van der Bliek kept the Engineers in the game, stopping 22 shots in the first, 15 in the second, and all eight in the third period to preserve the win. Van der Bliek was a mere three shots behind her career record for saves in a game, 48, which she earned in last year’s ECAC Semifinal win over Harvard. Big Green goaltender Mariel Lacina finished with 16 stops on the night.
Fueled by such a monumental victory, the Engineers stepped onto the ice at Bright Hockey Center ready to come away from a travel weekend with a sweep. Freshman netminder Shannon Ramelot blocked 43 shots to earn her first career victory over the No. 7 Crimson by a score of 4-2.
The visiting Engineers opened up the game early with sophomore Laura Guillemette’s first goal of the season, just under two minutes into the contest, followed by senior Laura Gersten’s first of two in the game at 8:06. Harvard senior Cori Bassett cut the deficit to one with a minute remaining in the period off her fourth goal of the season. That would be the closest Harvard would get to catching the Engineers as both teams headed back to the locker rooms for the game’s first intermission.
Nearly seven minutes into the second frame, Gersten added her second goal of the game—and fifth of the year—off a shot from the left circle that sailed over the left shoulder of freshman Crimson goaltender Laura Bellamy. Junior Sydney O’Keefe and sophomore Jill Vandegrift earned helpers on the play. Despite holding a 20-8 advantage in shots on net in the second period, the Crimson could not sneak one past Ramelot in her fourth game for the Engineers.
“It felt great to be able to put points up on the board for our team,” said Gersten of her three-point night. “When we were freshmen, Harvard left a bit of a sour taste in our mouths, so it is always great to go there and get a win.”
The Crimson came within one late in the third period off junior Kate Buesser’s eighth of the year. Freshman Jillian Dempsey, who skated around three Engineers and had her shot deflected by Ramelot to Buesser, earned the sole assist on the play with 3:40 remaining in regulation.
Down only one goal, Harvard pulled Bellamy in favor of the extra skater, which proved to be a fatal error as sophomore Alisa Harrison sealed the win for Rensselaer with an empty net goal from the top of the point at 19:30 for her eighth goal of the season.
The win marked RPI’s first-ever regular season victory over the Crimson, after having defeated the nationally-recognized team in the ECAC tournament in overtime late last season. “We played with a lot of heart in both games. We trusted in each other on the ice and everyone did their job. It was a great team effort. We always have things to improve upon every weekend. I think this weekend we did a good job of coming back into the defensive zone and going on the offense as a unit; if we continue to play like that; I like our chances for the rest of the year,” said Gersten.
Hot off two wins over a pair of the nation’s best teams, the Engineers are ready to return to the Houston Field House for another sweep. Friday night RPI takes on the Quinnipiac University Bobcats at 7 pm, followed by a 4 pm matchup with the Princeton University Tigers on Saturday. “I expect these games to be very physical and a battle,” predicts Gersten. “We are tied with both of them in the league standings; no one is going to want to give up any points.”