W. icers poised for historic season
Every so often in sports, everything comes together for one particular team that simply plays at a higher level than the competition. The 1998 Yankees, for example, were destined for nothing less than a World Series championship. The 1995-96 Bulls team that lost only 10 games during the regular season 82-game schedule was absolutely untouchable.
And all indications point toward the 2000 Dartmouth women's hockey team having such a dominant season.
Ranked number one in the nation by just about every media outlet in the country, the team stands at 6-0 and has already dispensed with three of the other top-10 teams, including number two Brown this past weekend.
Many factors worked together to create this unique situation for the women's team.
First, this season marks the culmination of the careers of the '01 members of the team, Lauren Trottier, Jenn Whien, Liz Macri, Meaghan Cahill, Kristina Guarino, Carrie Sekela and Kristin Romberg. These players made an impact on the Dartmouth women's team the moment they stepped onto the ice as freshman. And now in their senior year, they are seasoned leaders who know what it takes to win.
Second, the team is incredibly deep with oustanding players from the sophomore and junior classes to supplement the senior core. Players like Corren Bredin '03, Carly Hagard '02, Kristin King '03, Amy Ferguson '02 and Kim McCullough '03 have proven themselves to be among the best in the League in their respective positions.
Third, many of the teams that have traditionally given Dartmouth trouble in the past, particularly Brown, graduated several of their top players.
These three factors combined -- senior leadership, depth and the weakening of key opponents -- puts Dartmouth in a very special position. This team can go as far as it wants to.
But as sports fans know, having the skills doesn't always, and oftentimes doesn't, translate into getting the key victories. Intangibles such as team chemistry, heart and intensity make the difference. And the beautiful thing for Dartmouth is that these intangibles are where the women's team shines most.
Against Brown this weekend, Dartmouth players went the extra mile at each point of the game -- diving for loose pucks, crashing into the boards to maintain control of the puck, and seeking to get as many shots on goal as possible. Dartmouth just looked like it wanted the game more than Brown did. The victory was Dartmouth's first against Brown since the ECAC playoffs two years ago, and it was a sweet one.
"They play like underdogs even though they're ranked number one," Coach Judy Oberting said of her team. "Harvard and Brown are always rivals no matter where they're ranked. I think to come in and beat them back-to-back, after a really exhausting game yesterday, and fight the way they did just shows a lot about their character. They're not going to concede anything."
The most impressive moment of the Brown game occured in the third period when the Big Green had to fight off a 1:20 penalty with Bredin and Haggard in the box. Up 3-2, the game had been hard fought and it seemed like a sure thing that Brown would capitalize on the two-man advantage.
But Dartmouth dug down and fought off the Bears. Goalie Cahill made an outstanding split save and Trottier managed to clear the puck to kill the majority of penalty time. Following the penalty kill, the momentum fell permanently in Dartmouth's favor, and the team pulled out the victory.
So far this season, Dartmouth has defeated number seven UNH 4-1, number six Harvard 5-4 and number two Brown 3-2.
The nation's other second-ranked team, Minnesota, will pose a signifcant challenge to the Big Green Dec. 9 and Dec. 10. And of course the team will face off against Brown later on in the season.
The women's hockey season is still in its infancy, and the Dartmouth team has a long way to go. But these key victories early in the season are invaluable for the women's confidence and mental strength.
"We're not looking to the end. One of our primary goals is to not play down to teams, which has been a problem for us in the bast," Oberting said.
The women will play over 25 games this season and there are bound to be rough patches. But so long as the team can carry some momentum into the post-season, the team seems destined to go further than any other women's hockey team in Dartmouth history.