Big Green fall victim to US national team

by Erika Tower | 11/19/97 6:00am

Call it first period jitters.

Whatever it was, the team that played the U.S. National women's ice hockey team in the first period last night was a completely different team from the one in rest of the game.

It was largely due to this first period lapse that Dartmouth found itself down 6-0 heading into the second period. Following what was described as one of Dartmouth's best weekends ever, the Big Green ultimately fell to the National team, 15-0.

"It was a very similar game to what we've been getting from the collegiate teams," National team Head Coach Ben Smith said. "We've got the top players in the U.S. so it kind of tilts things."

From the drop of the puck, Team USA dominated the competition, pushing Dartmouth to its absolute limits.

They were bigger. They were quicker. They were simply a step above any team the Big Green has ever encountered.

And it took a full period for the Big Green to figure out how to play against them.

"They're fast," captain Emilie Schnitman '98 said. "They're accurate on their passes and their skills are very refined. In the same sense, it's still very frustrating. The best thing we can do is learn from them."

While such a one-sided game may seem pointless for the National team, whose coaches are still looking to make cuts, captain Cammie Granato disagrees.

"I think this is a chance to work on our systems and sharpen the little things," she said. "We have to learn never to back down."

In the two games last weekend, Dartmouth encountered 28 shots per game. Last night, the National team fired 26 shots in just the first period. Six of those converted to goals.

"In the first period we were an absolute mess," Dartmouth captain Sarah Hood '98 said. "They're the national team. In everything they've done this year, they've blown everyone out."

The National team began its first period scoring spree four minutes into the game. Granato knocked in that goal, her first of three goals and three assists, with help from Jeanine Sobek and Angela Ruggiero.

One minute later, Jenny Schmidgall swept up a dropped puck in front of the Dartmouth goal and deposited the National team's second goal.

The National team followed these four more during the first period -- two from Providence College's Laurie Baker and one each from Sandra Whyte and Shelley Looney.

Throughout the first period, Dartmouth was unable to take control of the puck, a strength proven during last weekend's victories over Brown and Providence. Instead, Dartmouth played a defensive game, icing the puck whenever it had the chance rather than attempting to make plays.

"They're just so good," Dartmouth Head Coach George Crowe said of the National team. "Everyone is just a level above us. You can't do anything you normally do."

While it couldn't compensate completely for the strength of the National team, whatever was said in the Dartmouth locker room between the first and second periods certainly acted to calm the Big Green. Dartmouth again went scoreless but was able to hold the National team to just two goals.

The first of these two goals came at 8:47 into the second from Sobek and the second two minutes later from former Dartmouth star Gretchen Ulion.

The third period saw seven more goals from the National team, to close out the game at 15-0. Despite the high number of goals, Dartmouth continued to play at a high level, never reverting back to the nervous play of the first period.

"They definitely got better after they got in there," Granato said of her opponents. "They didn't get discouraged, They clogged up the slot area very well. I was really impressed."

Much of the credit for Dartmouth's performance goes to freshman goalie Meaghan Cahill '01. In her fourth collegiate game ever, Cahill, Dartmouth's player of the game, maintained composure despite being pummeled by the National team firing squad.

"She's a really good goalie. She has incredible quickness," former Dartmouth and current National team goalie Sarah Tueting said. Tueting had only three shots during the game.

Over the course of the game, Cahill faced 62 shots, more than what she faced from both Brown and Providence combined.

"It felt good the last two periods," Cahill said. "It felt like I could actually play with them. They take a lot more shots and a lot harder shots. They are smart. They know exactly what they are doing."

Dartmouth faces two more challenging games this weekend at Harvard and Northeastern in Boston.

"What I hope it doesn't do is make us feel we aren't a good hockey team," Hood said. "I hope no one thinks that there's any other team who will do this to us because there's not."