W. hockey looks ahead confidently

by Scott Harrison | 2/4/00 6:00am

The name Dartmouth should strike fear into the heart of any team that is so unlucky to face the women's hockey team this winter. Over the last five games the Big Green have outscored their opponents by a margin of 25-3, solidified their position as one of the best teams in the ECAC, and proved they can win the big games as well as the routine ones.

Dartmouth destroyed archrival UNH 4-0 on Jan. 22 and have since avenged an earlier loss to a-less-than-great Princeton team. The girls have believed in themselves all season long, but it has been the past few weeks that the talent to win collided with the mentality to get the job done.

At 12-4-0, the team stands at second the ECAC just one point behind Brown.

Offensively, Dartmouth ranks second in the conference behind Harvard with an average of 4.56 goals a game. The physically intimidating girls actively take the puck away from opponents and once they have it, they don't let go.

Last weekend this was quite apparent at the team disposed of Yale 9-1.

But the women's hockey is not only about offense. The combination of Amy Ferguson '03 and Meaghan Cahill '01 in goal has proven to be quite effective. In fact Ferguson has the best goals against average (0.54) and save percentage (.954) in the conference.

In short, the team is an offensive powerhouse with some of the best goalies in the league.

The next eight games will determine Dartmouth's position heading into the playoffs. Eight teams advance with the top four receiving home ice in the first round.

Last season Dartmouth fought hard for the fourth spot, but ended up fifth. This year, the team's position looks much more solid.

This weekend the Big Green will travel to play Cornell and St. Lawrence, two sub-.500 squads that should pose no threat whatsoever, especially now that Dartmouth is on such a roll. So long as the team starts out with emotion and doesn't wait until the last period to put goals on the board, the girls will be able to chalk up two more victories by Sunday night.

Winter Carnival, however, will be the most challenging and important weekend remaining in the season. Harvard and Brown, the top two teams in the ECAC aside from Dartmouth, will face off against the Green in Thompson arena. Dartmouth squeaked out a victory over Harvard 5-4 in overtime earlier this season, but Brown handed them a 1-0 loss the following day.

The Brown Bears also eliminated Dartmouth from the playoffs last year with a 3-1 victory.

Most important for Dartmouth will be scoring the first goal. When they get on the board first, the Green stifle opponents and play with an energized attack.

When they get off to a slow start, however, the team struggles to get going at all and often finds itself making an unsuccessful run in the closing minutes of the third period.

In addition, Dartmouth can take heart in the fact that Brown is due for a loss. The Bears have won 11 games straight -- it's unlikely that they'll go undefeated for much longer, especially against a team of the quality of Dartmouth.

The following weekend Dartmouth face off against Maine -- a guaranteed victory for Dartmouth since Maine is the worst team in the league. On Feb. 20 Dartmouth will play UNH again, which will probably be a tough game. Dartmouth may have dominated UNH in Thompson arena, but UNH will be looking for blood on their home turf.

Dartmouth will finish up its regular season with games against Northeastern and Providence -- two quality teams that will assuredly test Dartmouth before the playoffs.

Among the top opponents' schedules, Harvard and Brown are similar in that they too will face three or four tough opponents and four or five lesser ones in the remaining part of their seasons.

The women's ice hockey team finds itself in a much more comfortable position than it did last year at this time. First place is within the team's grasp and home ice seems likely.

The amazing part is that the team will not lose many key players to graduation for next season. Just imagine where they will be next year.