MINNEAPOLIS — More than a berth in the national championship game was on the line when Boston College and Harvard met Friday night in the Women’s Frozen Four semifinals.
The Boston-area rivals had met twice so far this season, and each time one team took more than a win from the other: Pride.
In November, it was Boston College dismantling Harvard 10-2.
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In February, it was Harvard handing top-ranked BC its first loss of the season in the last place the Eagles wanted to lose it: the championship game of the Beanpot Tournament, the coveted annual competition between the four Boston-area schools.
So when the two teams took the ice at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis for the second Frozen Four semifinal of the night, emotions began at a heightened place and only went higher.
That feeling was summed up in the game’s final play, when a Boston College player landed a full-on body check against a Harvard player as time expired in the Crimson’s 2-1 win. Harvard will face Minnesota Sunday for the championship.
“Definitely, we had fire under our butts and had a lot of motivation,” said Harvard goalie Emerance Maschmeyer, who had 43 saves.
“I think it kind of fueled the fire a little bit, we were pumped and excited to play,” Boston College forward Haley Skarupa said. “I think the rivalry is great, and we were really excited coming into the game. I think it helped us focus in and prepare.”
The game was fast and chippy from the start, but both goalies stood their ground.
Boston College actually got a puck past Maschmeyer within the first two minutes, but the goal was disallowed when referees ruled that sophomore forward Kristyn Capizzano had kicked the puck into the net. The Eagles had a prime opportunity later in the period when Harvard’s Miye D’Oench was called for checking from behind. That gave Harvard a man advantage for the last five minutes of period one.
No matter, Maschmeyer stopped all 15 shots she faced, while Boston College freshman goalie Katie Burt matched the shutout with six saves of her own.
More of the same followed in period two and into period three.
That’s when Harvard senior forward Kailey Armstrong broke things open. Her soft shot from the right faceoff dot bounced through Burt’s legs 6:34 into the period.
“It was a lucky, lucky bounce, and I was fortunate enough to put that away,” Armstrong said.
Junior forward Mary Parker put Harvard up 2-0 about six minutes later.
That gave Boston College seven minutes to put everything they had into a comeback attempt. And the Eagles’ relentless attack paid off when senior forward Emily Field scored off a rebound off the back wall with 4:23 to play.
That was as close as it would get.
“We ran into a goalie that made some really nice saves on us, and we knew that was going to happen,” Boston College coach Katie King Crowley said. “I thought our kids stuck to it and worked extremely hard. We just came up short.”
With the win, Harvard advances to the championship for the first time since 2005, where it will seek the school’s first NCAA title.
Now, looking back at the season, the Crimson players can see that 10-2 loss to BC in a different light. While it indeed marked a low point in the season, it also proved to be the turning point that propelled the team all the way to the title game.
“Those things happen, and sometimes they are the best things to happen to a hockey team,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “We really had to take stock after that. We turned around the next day and barely beat Northeastern. We hung on for dear life in that game, and scratched and clawed, I think we were down 2-0 there [before ultimately winning 4-3].
“That weekend was a huge turning point for us. Sometimes you have to go through those things to expose your weaknesses, and we certainly worked hard, we worked a lot harder after that. You build your armor throughout they year and we started to build it better there.”