One need only go so far as the Dartmouth women's hockey homepage on the Internet -- www.dartmouth.edu/~wicehock -- to see what an impressive program we have had here at Dartmouth College since its inception in 1978.
The program has won four Ivy League titles, had 14 All-Ivy players, had the Ivy League coach of the year three times and has produced two Olympians. But come March, this year's squad will be gunning for one accolade no team before it has ever earned -- the NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship.
This year marks the inauguration of the NCAA tournament and fortunately for Dartmouth, the women's team is enjoying the best season in the program's history. At 16-1-1, Dartmouth has proven itself to be better than anyone else in the nation.
The women know that if they play their best together as a team no one can beat them. It is not a question of cockiness but of pride in the culmination of years of hard work and playing as the underdog.
Over the past few years, Brown enjoyed the number one ranking that Dartmouth owns this year, while Dartmouth was consistently ranked fourth or fifth in the nation. The senior class -- comprised of Liz Macri, Lauren Trottier, Kristina Guarino, Jennifer Wiehn, Carrie Sekela, Kristin Romberg and Meaghan Cahill -- has spent the last three years proving critics wrong, surprising favored opponents and making a name for itself and for the College.
Now that this group of seniors has reached the top, it is finally getting the recognition it deserves. A feature in USA Today credited the seniors with transforming Dartmouth from a contender to a frontrunner and quoted University of New Hampshire coach Karen Kay about the respect she has for this team and the senior class.
"That senior class is what got everything started for them," Kay told USA Today. "And Dartmouth has a real team mentality. They've always prided themselves on having three or four lines that will contribute on different nights."
Despite all of this year's success, however, the team knows that what matters is where it finishes when the season ends.
"We want to improve each game," goalkeeper Cahill said. "We may lose another game or two this season, but that won't be the end of the world. But by the end of the season we want to be at our pinnacle."
A pattern early in the season this year for the Dartmouth team has been to score most of its goals in the first and second periods. It seemed that the team was having sort of a let down at the end of games, which could possibly come back to haunt them in the post season.
Two weekends ago, against Boston College, however, Dartmouth proved that it can own the third period as much as it can the first two. Up only 4-3 going into the third period against BC, Dartmouth went on a 4-0 run as Trottier completed a hat trick.
This past weekend Dartmouth was up to its usual business as it soundly defeated 5-3 fourth-ranked St. Lawrence (14-4-2) and then shutout Cornell 4-0.
The biggest challenges remaining for Dartmouth in the regular season are games against Harvard and Brown, ranked fifth and sixth in the nation, respectively. The Big Green will also look forward to getting another shot at Northeastern -- the only team to defeat Dartmouth this season. Dartmouth will face mediocre squads from Yale and Princeton this upcoming weekend.
Just like the New York Yankees from two years ago and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, the Dartmouth women's hockey team is enjoying a very special season that comes around rarely in sports competition. It is up to them to make the most of it.