High expectations for second-ranked women's hockey

by Tony Hao | 10/29/04 5:00am

The Dartmouth women's hockey team held steady in its final preseason tune-up Tuesday night against Harvard's squad. The two premier teams in the nation showcased their arsenals in a fast-paced scrimmage in front of a handful of Dartmouth-faithful. The regular season begins Friday night for the Big Green, as they take on Boston College

Although Dartmouth head coach Mark Hudak requested the scoreboard to show 0-0 for the entire scrimmage after the Big Green's first goal, the scorekeepers saw a total of seven Dartmouth celebrations versus Harvard's lone power play goal in the third frame. However, since the match was the Crimson's first game-speed scrimmage, no one is breaking out the champagne.

"We were up on Harvard a little bit today," said Hudak.

"There's the nervousness, and people are trying to figure out the system and get used to the new lines. This was Harvard's first game; so they are at where we were a few days ago," he added.

On the previous Sunday, Dartmouth played its first exhibition game against an East Coast Wizards team comprised mainly of graduated players from East Coast colleges and universities, including four of Dartmouth's own alumni. In a sluggish contest, Cheryl Muranko '06 and Katie Weatherston '06 each tallied a goal and an assist to power the Big Green to a 3-2 victory. The challenge of playing an experienced team and a quickened pace led to Dartmouth's breakout performance against Harvard.

"We played well [Tuesday] and improved a lot," said co-captain Meagan Walton '05. "There's a good team chemistry and we are getting comfortable playing with each other."

The two teams worked on various aspects of the game throughout the scrimmage. In the second period, Dartmouth and Harvard took turns in two-minute power play drills, and the first period was played as a warm-up with no penalties. The format benefited both teams in preparing for the season.

"The informal scrimmage started last year when we went down to Harvard," said Hudak. "It gives coaches a sense of what to work on, and more importantly, it helps the freshmen to see the competition at this level."

The upcoming season holds great promise for the team. Dartmouth begins its campaign ranked second in the nation behind only the University of Minnesota. It is also picked to win the ECAC Hockey League. The Big Green will return its top four scorers, all juniors, from its successful season a year ago in which the team advanced to its third Frozen Four tournament in four years.

Although Dartmouth will play seven of its first nine games on the road this year, the team will finish the year by playing 14 of its last 19 games in Thompson Arena, including a pair of exciting contests against Minnesota. The Big Green's scrimmage partner, the third-ranked Crimson, will not see the Big Green again until Feb. 5, when the rivalry will be renewed with late-season playoff implications on the line.

When asked about his goals for the season, Coach Hudak was confident.

"The goal for the season is to try to get better so we are competing at the end of the year," said Hudak.

"If we're successful, we get a chance to compete for the Ivy title, and then ECACs. And as a bonus, we might be competing for the national championship," he said.

The quest for the elusive national title begins at home this Friday night at 5 p.m. against the Golden Eagles of Boston College, who visit Hanover for the first time since November 2001.

That game three years ago ended in an exciting 3-2 win in overtime for the Big Green with then-freshman Walton making the game-winning assist. However, the long hiatus in between head-to-head contests has left the two teams unfamiliar with each other.

"We don't know too much about them, only that it was a close game three years ago," said co-captain Alana BreMiller '05.

"We will just take this game, and each game, by itself, and we should be successful as a team," she said.