March 7, 2009

 

Courtesy of RPI

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Junior Laura Gersten (Queensbury, NY/Troy-Albany Ice Cats) scored at 13:20 of overtime to give the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) women’s hockey team a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Harvard University in the semifinals of the ECAC Hockey Tournament Saturday afternoon at Bright Hockey Center.

With the win, RPI's first-ever against Harvard, the sixth-seeded Engineers improve to 19-13-4 and advance to Sunday's Championship Game (2pm) - the first in program history - against the winner of the St. Lawrence/Dartmouth semifinal.  The Crimson move to 19-10-3 on the season.

The Engineers, who got a career-high 48 saves from sophomore netminder Sonja van der Bliek (Toronto, ON/Toronto Jr. Aeros), took advantage of the only penalty of the extra frame for the game-winner.  While with the advantage, they were able to cycle the puck low before sophomore Kendra Dunlop (Granum, AB/Warner Hockey School) found Gersten at the top of the left circle.  She walked in and ripped a shot into the top right corner of the net.

van der Bliek earned the win, her school record 18th of the season, by making 13 saves in the first period, 11 in the second, 16 in the third and eight stops in overtime.

After a scoreless opening period, which saw the homestanding Crimson hold a 13-1 shot advantage, Rensselaer responded with two Whitney Naslund (Bloomington, MN/Bloomington Jefferson) goals less than two minutes apart.

Rensselaer, which recorded the first goal in each of its last six games, continued its streak in the second period when Naslund, a junior, tipped in a feed from freshman Alisa Harrison (Vienna, VA/Washington Pride) on the power play at 13:21. Positioned low in the right circle, Harrison made a pass into the slot to a skating Naslund, who beat Harvard goalie Christina Kessler (Oakville, ON/Oakville Trafalgar) glove-side.

The Engineers maintained the momentum and just minutes later Naslund once again put one past Kessler. Corralling a pass from linemate Allison Wright (Oakville, ON/Oakville Ice), Naslund skated down the slot and wristed a shot under the crossbar for the 2-0 advantage at 15:29.

Harvard answered less than a minute later when winger Sarah Wilson (Avon, CT/Loomis Chaffee) collected a feed from Anna McDonald (New Brighton, MN/Totino-Grace) and beat van der Bliek stick side to cut the deficit to 2-1 at 16:11.

In the final period, which saw the visiting Engineers hold a 2-1 lead, the Crimson took advantage of a Rensselaer penalty and evened things up 2-2 at the 10:42 mark. Wilson tallied her second goal of the game, when she caught a centering pass, skated through the slot into the right circle and saw her shot goover the shoulder of van der Bliek .

Harvard nearly tallied the go-ahead goal in the closing seconds of regulation when an errant shot bounced off a referee and onto a Crimson stick. The shot towards an open net was blocked by Harrison and van der Bliek covered a second point-blank shot as time expired, setting up the overtime.

Harvard finished with a 50-17 advantage in shots.  Kessler stopped 14 shots in defeat.