Women's hockey to face Harvard

| 11/23/09 11:00pm

Riding a two-game winning streak, Dartmouth's women's hockey will face stiff competition over Thanksgiving break against Harvard and the University of Vermont.

The team will travel to Cambridge, Mass., on Wednesday in the hope of finding revenge after last year's crushing 3-2 upset.

"Harvard is Harvard," co-captain Sarah Parsons '10 said. "It's always our biggest game of the year, just because of the history and the rivalry."

Head coach Mark Hudak said that he hopes the team will not get too caught up in the heated rivalry.

"It always is an emotional game," he said. "We want to use that emotion to get us ready for the game, but we also don't want the emotions to get us unfocused."

The Crimson's (5-3-1, 5-3-0 ECAC Hockey) defense has allowed an average of just 1.71 goals per game this season, good enough for the team fourth in the nation.

Dartmouth (4-3-1, 4-3-1 ECAC Hockey) must find a way to get past netminder Christina Kessler who anchors Harvard's defense with a .941 save percentage.

Hudak stressed that Dartmouth's best strategy against Kessler includes taking quick shots on the net and speedy rebounding.

"Part of our preparation is getting pressure to the net," he said. "We are not going to beat [Kessler] on those first shots. It's not going to be a game filled with pretty goals, but one where you have to put a lot of pressure on the goalie so that she can't be ready."

On the offensive side, the Crimson has relied on rookie Jillian Dempsey and junior Kate Buesser for Harvard's scoring efforts.

The Crimson mirrored Dartmouth's weekend performance, routing Yale and Brown by wide margins, and, like the Big Green, has also struggled this season with power-play performance, although the team went three-for-seven against Brown.

With the weekend successes, Harvard now stands fifth in the ECAC Hockey rankings, while Dartmouth sits one spot below in the sixth position.

Dartmouth is focused on the Crimson for now, yet given the level of parity in the conference, Hudak added that Dartmouth will need to treat their upcoming game against Vermont (6-5-1, 1-4-1 Hockey East) with the same mentality.

"On paper, we are a little bit stronger than Vermont," he said. "I know everyone will be ready to go hard for 60 minutes against Harvard, but we have to do that for Vermont as well."

The Big Green will travel to Burlington, Vt., on Saturday to take on the Catamounts.

Parsons emphasized that the game against Vermont will be crucial to Dartmouth's national standings, especially since the Catamounts have made a lot of progress in the past couple of years.

"Both of these games will be huge challenges for us," she said. "Vermont has actually been doing very well in their league, so this game is important for the national rankings."