The Big Green Machine
If anyone doubted that Dartmouth should be No. 1 before last weekend, they should be convinced by now. The Big Green backed up its undefeated record with two convincing victories over then-No. 2 Minnesota, 5-1 and 4-0, on Saturday and Sunday.
Dartmouth (10-0-1) shut down Minnesota (11-4-1) offensively as the Gophers, who score 4.31 goals a game, managed just one goal in Hanover the entire weekend despite taking 60 shots on goal. A lot of the credit should go to Big Green goaltenders Amy Ferguson and Meaghan Cahill, but Dartmouth’s defense, led by junior Correne Bredin and senior Liz Macri, made life miserable for Minnesota’s high-scoring forwards all weekend.
“We shut down Minnesota by putting a lot of pressure on them in all three zones,” head coach Judy Parish Oberting said. “We put pressure on them in deep, stepped up through the neutral zone and were aggressive in our own end. Liz and Correne certainly are the cornerstones for us defensively, but all six of our defensemen worked together and made it very difficult for Minnesota to get any real good looks at the net.”
The Big Green also had no trouble scoring against the Gophers; though Dartmouth has none of the ECAC’s top scorers. The Big Green makes up for this with a deep bench. Six different Dartmouth skaters scored against Minnesota, and the Big Green got three goals from third-liners Lydia Wheatley and Sarah Clark. Oberting is more than happy to get this kind of contribution from Wheatley, Clark and linemate Kim McCullough.
“Lydia Wheatley is as responsible defensively as any forward I have seen in the league,” Oberting said. “She anticipates well in all three zones, is both strong and quick on her feet and plays through the body very well.
“Kim McCullough is extremely strong, handles the puck well and can fire the puck. She understands the game, reads the play well and gets herself in scoring position. Sarah Clark is really beginning to turn it on. Offensively she has an excellent eye for the net and keeps getting better each week. All three of them are smart, responsible players. They gave us a huge lift this weekend and are capable of playing against any line in the country.”
Fortunately for the rest of the country, Dartmouth won’t play anyone else until December 27, when it travels to the Lake Placid Tournament.
Duluth is Lovely in December
Harvard coach Katey Stone was thinking about more than a nice Christmas vacation when she scheduled a road trip to Duluth for late December. The No. 2 Crimson (8-3-0) is heading into the freezing weather of northern Minnesota for two games this weekend against No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth (11-4-1), mainly to give Harvard its first-ever look at the newest national power.
Despite a two-week layoff, Harvard is on a roll. The Crimson finished off November by winning at No. 4 St. Lawrence (7-3-2) and No. 6 Brown (6-3-2). Harvard has only lost one game — to top-ranked Dartmouth — since the return of senior Tammy Shewchuk (6g, 15a) and junior Jennifer Botterill (13g, 7a), the second- and third-highest scorers in the ECAC.
“We are developing nicely so far,” said Stone. “It’s important to finally have everyone out on the ice. We’re not playing our best hockey yet, but we’re playing good hockey and that’s a great place to start.”
More importantly, Harvard is starting to clamp down on defense. With rookie goaltender Jessica Ruddock (0.82 GAA, .967 save percentage) between the pipes and senior Tara Dunn providing a forward’s skills at the blue line, the Crimson has allowed just three goals in as many games.
Ruddock will receiver her biggest test to date in Duluth. The Bulldogs feature three of the WCHA’s top 10 scorers in sophomores Maria Rooth (15g, 18a), Hanne Sikio (16g, 12a), and Erika Holst (9g, 15a).
“They are good one-on-one players,” Stone said of the UMD scorers. “We need to keep things simple in the defensive zone. That means making clean passes rather than stickhandling from goal line to goal line.”
On the other end, Botterill, Shewcuk and company will have to face UMD netminder Tuula Puputti, who leads the WCHA in GAA (1.99) and save percentage (.919).
Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 16-17
No. 2 Harvard at No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth – The Crimson is on a roll, but the Bulldog scorers are hard to stop. Harvard, 3-2; UMD 5-3