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John Harvard's Journal

Puck Stop

The many saves of a six-foot goalie

March-April 2020

Photograph of several players competing for the puck in front of the Harvard goal

Mind the net: Sophomore goalie Lindsay Reed, flanked by teammates Ali Peper (13) and Nicki Lutschaunig (12), homes in on a speeding puck during a January win against Union College. Last year, Reed averaged more than 30 saves per game. 
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Courtesy of Harvard Athletics Communications

 


Mind the net: Sophomore goalie Lindsay Reed, flanked by teammates Ali Peper (13) and Nicki Lutschaunig (12), homes in on a speeding puck during a January win against Union College. Last year, Reed averaged more than 30 saves per game. 
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Courtesy of Harvard Athletics Communications

 

On New Year’s Eve, the Harvard women’s hockey team suited up for a long-anticipated rematch. Last February, in the first round of the 2019 Beanpot Tournament, the Crimson had stunned Boston College, ranked seventh in the nation, with a 4-1 victory. The Eagles scored 45 seconds into the game, and then never again. That was partly the work of Harvard’s rookie goalie, a lanky then-freshman named Lindsay Reed, who stopped 52 shots that night. A few weeks later, she stopped another 51 in the Beanpot final, an overtime loss to Boston University, and immediately after the game was named the Bertagna Award winner, as the tournament’s top goaltender.

This winter, Harvard traveled across town to Chestnut Hill, undefeated in conference play but still underdogs to higher-ranked BC. And again, the Crimson pulled off an upset win, this time even more decisive: three players came away with two goals each, and the team scored five times before the Eagles were able to bury their first puck in Reed’s net, a point-blank shot midway through the third period. At the end of the game, BC had taken nearly twice as many shots on goal as Harvard, but the final score was 7-1. Reed had made 45 saves.

 

In becoming a goalie, Reed followed a traditional path: she learned to skate shortly after learning to walk, and one day, while playing pick-up hockey with friends, her older brother stuck her in the net. “And that was it,” she says. “Basically, the rest is history.” She discovered she was good at fending off pucks—really good: a few of the other dads watching that afternoon turned to her father and joked, “You have a problem. Your daughter’s a goalie.” She was seven. “Part of it was, your big brother tells you to do something, and you want to do it and have fun with him. But also, I just loved it. It sounds a little psychotic, like ‘Oh, I like getting hit with pucks.’ But it’s just really fun.”

After that, things moved quickly. The outdoor rink and hockey club in her suburban New Jersey hometown became a second home. Reed had a goalie coach by sixth grade and joined a boys’ travel team soon after that. By the time she reached high school, USA Hockey had started to take notice; she was invited to player-development camps, and as a junior and senior played on the U.S. Women’s under-18 team, helping to bring home gold medals from world championships in Russia and the Czech Republic. In the middle of high school, a growth spurt hit, and she arrived at Harvard in 2018 with a six-foot frame and a massive wingspan. Out on the ice, she’s a striking figure, towering head and shoulders (and then some) above the net. Goalies that tall are a rarity in the women’s game. “I’m closer to six-three with my helmet and skates on,” she says. “I sometimes forget that I’m intimidating when I’m on the ice.”

Throughout her freshman year with the Crimson, Reed proved a mostly unsolvable puzzle for opponents. She made 927 saves altogether, setting a program record, and in 17 of the 27 games she played, she stopped at least 30 shots. Three games were shutouts. Her .940 save percentage led all freshman collegiate goaltenders by a wide margin, and she finished the season ranked number three in the country, with a goals-against average of just 2.18. This season, she—and the team—came out playing similarly strongly.


Lindsay Reed’s pads—which the sophomore goalie helped design—depict one of the gates leading to the athletic campus. The image carries some symbolism: a goalie’s job, she says, is to “shut the gates.”
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Courtesy of Harvard Athletics Communications

 

“It’s nice to know that if somebody goes by you, she’ll make the save,” says defenseman and senior co-captain Ali Peper. “I mean, Lindsay’s special.…When she’s on and rolling, she brings a totally different energy to the team.”

“She’s a gamer. That’s what I’d call her,” says sophomore forward Anne Bloomer, who was also Reed’s friend and teammate on the U.S. National under-18 squad (and whose father, Andrew Bloomer ’88, played hockey at Harvard). “She’s always very dialed in, very, very focused. Everything she does has purpose.”

 

The energy and intensity that Reed’s teammates describe are impossible to miss on the ice: the diving toe saves, the vaulting leaps, the flash of her glove—or stick, or whole body—across the mouth of the goal. “Plus, her consistency,” says Katey Stone, the Landry Family head coach. “She’s very reliable back there.” That’s one of the things that first prompted Stone to recruit her. At 19, Reed plays like a seasoned goalie. Part of that is vision and perspective: in high school, during the months when she wasn’t competing on the ice, she played field hockey—not as a goalie, but as a forward. The experience helped broaden her game in both sports, she says. “When you’re in goal, you realize what the forwards want you to do”—opponents as well as teammates. “And you can use that.”

But for good goalies, confidence can be as important as vision or skill. “For me, mental toughness is the biggest thing,” Reed says. “Because you’re back there by yourself the entire time—you almost never get to go to the bench with the others, and so you don’t get the same team culture throughout the game.” It’s important, she says, not to think too much, not to dwell on mistakes or missed chances, but instead to just let discipline and instinct and trust in her teammates guide her. Communicating helps, too, she adds—by which she means yelling down the ice at the top of her lungs. “Talking to your teammates, even if they can’t hear you from all the way back there in the goal, is really important. I like to think that, you know, when they pass the puck, it’s because of my yelling, because I told them to,” she says, with a laugh. “I try to be a quarterback back there.”

This season, Harvard had its best start in more than a decade. After blazing through Dartmouth, Brown, and Yale, the Crimson upset seventh-ranked Princeton 6-2 on their own ice in early November, a game in which Reed stopped 40 shots and Bloomer, one of the top goal-scorers in the country, scored twice; junior forward Becca Gilmore, a nationwide leader in assists, had four. The following day, Harvard won in overtime against Quinnipiac. “That one felt good,” Peper says. “In my time at Harvard, it’s been hard for us to win once the game goes to overtime.”

This season’s team is deep. “Lindsay’s a huge part of it,” Stone says, “but it’s a complementary effort.” In the Princeton game, nine players tallied points on the stat sheet (recording either a goal or an assist). Peper says she, too, feels a level of depth and strength on the team this season that propels her own play. “When you’re playing well, you can usually feel it, like your body feels different,” she explains. “One thing I pay attention to is passing—if I’m hitting people’s sticks, if I’m setting people up right.” Another is her gap—the space between herself and an opposing forward: “You know if you’ve challenged people, if you were able to take the puck from them and turn it the other way.” Reed’s goaltending, she adds, often makes those other plays possible. “With Lindsay out there, you can take some chances,” Peper says. “You never want to hang her out to dry, but knowing she’s there allows you to try some things.”

Harvard’s first goal in the New Year’s Eve game against Boston College looked something like that. A minute and a half into the first period, the Eagles made a rush in the Crimson’s zone; Reed deflected one shot and then another, and then swallowed a third in her glove. In the ensuing faceoff, Peper came away with the puck and, sidestepping a defender behind Reed’s net, bounced it up the ice toward freshman forward Shannon Hollands, who made a pass to Bloomer, already sprinting ahead for a breakaway. When Bloomer lobbed the puck into the Eagles’ net, there were cheers and hugs on the ice, then a string of high-fives from the bench. Reed skated toward center ice to tap the goal-scorer’s glove in congratulation, before gliding back to her own net and crouching into position, eyes forward, shoulders squared, ready for the next shot. 

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