Big Green hockey players seize Olympic spotlight

by Ben Zimmerman | 2/15/06 6:00am

Dartmouth's trio of Canadian icers could be described in any number of words, but brilliant will do just fine. Cherie Piper '06 kicked off the offensive avalanche, assisting Hayley Wickenheiser 4:40 into the first period of Canada's opening game against Italy. By the end of the night, Piper would add another four assists and a goal.

Gillian Apps '06 chipped in with five points of her own, and Katie Weatherston closed the action with Team Canada's final tally of the contest. The Canadians defeated their Torino hosts 16-0, setting an Olympic record for largest margin of victory in a women's hockey game.

The following afternoon, Piper, Apps and Weatherston picked up right where they left off. Skating against the Russians, Piper scored three times, propelling her countrywomen to a comfortable 12-0 victory. Weatherston and Apps combined for one goal and two assists.

With their second victory in as many days, the Canadians earned a day off and their first real test of the Games. Like Canada, Sweden had played Italy and Russia. And like Canada, Sweden had won easily, outscoring its opponents 14-1.

But once both teams hit the ice, the cream rose to the top as Canada manhandled its Scandinavian opponents 8-1.

This time Apps delivered the hat trick, finding the back of the net three times in the first two periods. Piper notched three assists and Weatherston tacked on her third goal of the Games.

The Canadians have a semifinal match-up on Friday but are already looking to next Monday's gold medal game, where they are projected to face-off against the only other undefeated team in the tournament, the United States.

Despite their sparkling record, the Americans have struggled in comparison to their northern neighbors. However, Dartmouth's Sarah Parsons '09 has been excellent.

After picking up two goals and two assists in shutout victories over Switzerland and Germany, the 18-year-old from Massachusetts who has deferred her enrollment at the College played the best game of her career. Parsons saved Team USA from a very dangerous Finland squad Tuesday.

Thirteen seconds into the game, the Finns jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Parsons, the youngest player on the U.S. squad, responded later in the period to tie the score.

More often than not, the momentum swing would be all America would need to regain control, but Finland had some hockey to play. Taking advantage of U.S. penalties, Finland opened up a 3-1 advantage 12:51 into the second frame.

With America's back pressed to the wall, Parsons stepped up once again, blasting the puck past Finland's Maija Hassinen. From that point on, it was all Team USA. The Americans scored five unanswered goals in the third period, winning the game by a deceptively wide four-goal margin.

Outside the hockey rink, Big Green athletes have not fared nearly as well. Alpine skier Scott Macartney '01 entered Torino just two weeks removed from the best World Cup performance of his career -- a second place showing in the super-G. But thus far, he has yet to seriously challenge for a medal.

In his first event, the Men's Downhill, the American finished in 1:50.68, 1.88 seconds off the winning time and good enough for 15th. Yesterday, Macartney took 16th in the Men's Combined. Fellow countryman Ted Ligety won the competition.

Dartmouth's oldest Olympic representatives, 35-year-old Karl Swenson '92 and 38-year-old Sarah Konrad '89, looked their respective ages. Swenson, a cross-country skier, took 40th in the Men's 30 km Pursuit Final with a time of 1:21:08.0. Konrad finished 63rd in the Women's 15 km Individual Biathlon.

Barring injury, all Big Green Olympians -- including five that have yet to compete -- will see more action before the Closing Ceremonies. Four days of glory down, 12 days of glory left to go.