Frozen 4: Last Year's Last Stand
Last year, there was no question where the Dartmouth women's hockey team wanted to end up: as the last team standing. They started out the season with every single player (sans one '00 who had been injured all year anyway) back from a team that had made a scrappy, unexpected run to the Frozen Four and a third place finish. True to expectations, last year's team went 23-3-1 in the regular season, won the ECAC tournament and were the No. 1 seed and favorite of the last four teams competing for the National Championship. Everything was aligned for a National Title, the first official one in the history of Women's College Hockey, but Dartmouth dropped both games.
"I think we got caught up last year a little bit thinking 'We've got to win the whole thing,'" co-captain Kim McCullough '02 admitted last week. "We knew the first game was important, but I think we were kind of looking ahead to the Final."
Coach Judy Oberting '91 agreed: "We came off the ECACs so high and just never recovered."
The first game was against St. Lawrence, the fourth seed in the tourney. The Big Green had gone 1-0-1 against them in the regular season, but when the first game of the Frozen Four started, it was all Saints.
Looking ahead to the Final may have something to do with it, but there were certainly other factors. One thing is sure, it wasn't the pressure or an inability to bear down for tough games.
"We had a lot of tough games, and they came out on the top end of it," Oberting said. "But they had to fight for it, and I think they were hungry and gritty for it last year, it just was the wrong weekend for us to be competing."
The Big Green is not the juggernaut it was last year by any stretch but another trip to the Final Four is by no means out of the question. If they do, they will have two experiences under their belt that should help them take the final step.
"My sophomore year, we sort of came out of nowhere," McCullough said. "Last year, we were expected to be there the whole way through, being ranked No. 1 all year. I think those two experiences, each being so different, have taught us to really approach each game and not look ahead to the next one."