After suffering a 4-2 loss to nationally-ranked Harvard University on Friday at the Houston Field House, the women’s hockey team bounced back to earn a 4-2 win over Dartmouth College the following afternoon. The weekend split leaves the Engineers with a 9-19-4 overall record, including a 6-12-2 ECAC mark. The Harvard Crimson improved to 18-8-1 overall and 15-4-1 within conference play, while the Dartmouth Big Green fell to 16-8-2 overall and 12-6-2 in league action.
Rensselaer nearly came back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period against the No. 8 Harvard but fell short as time expired. Freshman goaltender Kelly O’Brien turned away a total of 24 shots in the loss, while junior Laura Bellamy made 15 saves for the Crimson.
The visitors opened the match at 14:46 of the first period as freshman Samantha Reber collected her sixth goal of the season after flipping the puck over O’Brien’s shoulder. Sophomore defenseman Marissa Gedman added two goals in the second period to increase the Crimson’s lead. Gedman’s first tally came at 5:00 off the power play, with junior Kelsey Romatoski and sophomore Kalley Armstrong earning the assists.
Just over four minutes later, and again on the power play, Gedman increased Harvard’s lead to 3-0. Romatoski intercepted the biscuit off an RPI clearing attempt, and ripped a shot from the slot. Although O’Brien was able to block Romatoski’s attempt, the puck bounced out to Gedman, who was able to bury the rebound at 9:01.
The start of the third period seemed to eliminate all chances of an RPI comeback as sophomore Lyndsey Fry collected her 13th goal of the season at 3:29 to give Harvard a 4-0 advantage. Junior Jillian Dempsey started the play after grabbing the puck along the boards and sending it to classmate Hilary Hayssen on the point. Hayssen found Fry in front of the Engineers’ net, who then placed the shot inside the left post.
Midway through the frame, however, RPI saw senior Laura Guillemette and junior Taylor Horton give the homestanding team another chance at life, cutting the deficit down to two goals.
Guillemette’s goal, which came at 9:42, was the result of a miscue by Bellamy. The goaltender chipped the puck in front of her own net, where Guillemette was patiently waiting on the doorstep to bury the open net goal. Less than two minutes later at 11:15, Horton made it a 4-2 match with her eighth tally of the season. Senior captain Alisa Harrison started the play as she carried the puck into the offensive zone and found Horton.
Despite the late-game comeback by the Engineers, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Crimson, who left the game with the 4-2 victory. With a playoff spot on the line, Rensselaer came back the following afternoon to earn a 4-2 win over Dartmouth College.
Although the Big Green was able to score two quick goals in the first period, RPI came back with three in the second to earn the lead for good, including a three-point contest for Horton.
Freshman Taylor Mahoney earned her first collegiate goal at 16:43 of the middle frame after burying her own rebound. Harrison, whose initial shot deflected out to Mahoney, earned the primary assist on the play, as Horton earned the second helper. Harrison collected her second assist of the day less than two minutes later after finding sophomore Toni Sanders for a cross-ice pass. Sanders ripped the one-timer on net to knot the game at two.
The Engineers earned its first lead of the weekend, and the eventual game-winner off freshman Eleeza Cox’s 13th goal of the season at 19:13. Sophomore Jordan Smelker and senior Amanda Castignetti earned the assists on the play.
Rensselaer padded its lead with Horton’s ninth goal of the year, coming off a short-handed play at 5:37 of the third period. Senior Sierra Vadner passed the puck from the far boards over to Horton in the middle, who then out-skated a Dartmouth defenseman into the offensive zone. Horton’s wrist shot sailed just under the crossbar to earn the 4-2 advantage.
Freshman Brianna Piper made 22 saves for the Engineers, including 11 in the middle frame. At the other end of the rink, sophomore Lindsey Holdcroft turned away 30 shots in the loss.
RPI remains in a tie for the eighth and final spot in the ECAC playoffs with Brown University. Unfortunately for the Engineers, they are no longer in control of their own destiny. With two games remaining in the regular season schedule, RPI needs some help from a couple of other ECAC teams. Although Rensselaer is tied with Brown for the eighth playoff spot, the Engineers lost the tiebreaker with the Bears, and will not make the playoffs in the present. However, RPI can finish as high as seventh place with wins over Princeton University and Quinnipiac University, a Princeton loss to Union College, and a Brown loss or tie this weekend. As long as the Engineers are able to earn more points this weekend on the road against Princeton and Quinnipiac than Brown is able to against Harvard and Dartmouth in its series, Rensselaer will make a postseason appearance. However, should RPI lose to Princeton on Friday, and Brown wins at Harvard, the Engineers will be eliminated from playoff contention.
The Engineers take on Princeton University on Friday at 7 pm, and Quinnipiac University on Saturday at 4 pm in the two final games of the regular season. A pair of wins, coupled with losses by the Brown Bears will ensure Rensselaer’s chance at post-season play.