Providence, R.I. — Dartmouth got what it wanted out of its ECAC semifinal against Princeton-another shot Harvard in the ECAC final.
With the 4-2 victory over Princeton the Big Green earned its fourth straight trip to ECAC championship game and clinched the No. 4 spot in the USCHO.com Pairwise Rankings, the best available indicator of Dartmouth’s Frozen Four selection prospects.
Dartmouth still wants a victory over Harvard at noon tomorrow to be absolutely certain about the selection result that will come out at 7 p.m. Sunday. The game will be televised live on NESN in the Boston area.
“It’s our favorite game of the year,” said Dartmouth coach Judy Parish-Oberting. “Playing Harvard is a highlight. I think the two best teams are meeting in the final.”
When asked to elaborate whether she meant the two best teams in the ECAC or the nation, she replied, “Sure.”
Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal said goaltending and special teams are usually what wins games for his team. He received outstanding performance in the former but not the latter.
First Team All-Ivy goaltender Megan Van Beusekom made 30 saves for Princeton (20-9-4), including several acrobatic stops of Dartmouth breakaways, to keep the Tigers in the game, but it was not enough. Dartmouth (25-7-0) kept on coming with the opportunities.
“The chances never really stopped,” Oberting said. “We weren’t scoring, but it wasn’t like we were dwelling on it.”
The Tigers were in the game till the very end. Princeton earned a power play in the final four minutes and pulled its goaltender while a 3-2 deficit, but Dartmouth’s pressure on the penalty kill gave Princeton fits in its own defensive end. The Tigers were only able to break the puck out one occasion during the power play.
Shortly after the penalty was killed, the Dartmouth pressure was still forcing turnovers. Dartmouth’s Gillian Apps finally added the clincher when she gathered the puck at half-ice in front of the Dartmouth bench and buried it into the empty net for the 4-2 Dartmouth lead.
Kampersal was still pleased, however, with the way his team came back and nearly scored immediately following Apps’ empty-net goal.
The worst missed opportunity for Princeton came in the second period when the Tigers had a two-man advantage and could not convert. Dartmouth’s Alana BreMiller nearly managed a shorthanded goal during that stretch. Kampersal said he could remember the last time his team didn’t score on a five-on-three.
“They discombobulated us and threw us off our game,” Kampersal said.
Dartmouth struck first in the game when Krista Dornfried scored on a second chance, backhand shot after senior Amy Catlin put the puck on net.
Princeton freshman Sarah Butsch deflected the puck up and in from the crease on the power play off a setup from Lisa Rasmussen and Susan Hobson to tie the game, 1-1.
Dartmouth went ahead 2-1 on a power play of its own later in the first period. There was no stopping Cherie Piper when she had a clear view of the net on a setup from senior defenseman Correne Bredin.
Tiffany Hagge scored the third Dartmouth goal early in the second period when she finished an uncovered puck in front that had been put on net by Haggard. There was much discussion between the Princeton captains and the officials after the goal.
Assistant captain Andrea Kilbourne cut the deficit to 3-2 at the 7:28 mark of the third period thanks to her own strong finish and excellent movement of the puck from junior Gretchen Anderson and captain Nikola Holmes.
Ferguson made 22 saves in net for Dartmouth, a performance Oberting thought was more impressive than the statistics might indicate.
“It was a tough game to play for her because she’d get a ton of shots and then nothing,” Oberting said. “It took tremendous focus on her part for her to do as well as she did.”
Princeton looked backed on its season fondly in defeat.
“I’m proud of our team,” Kilbourne said. “We’ve exceeded expectations. The sum of all the parts is better than the individual player.”
Kampersal added that Kilbourne had been the cornerstone of the program for years and that he would miss her and the rest of the seniors because they are good hockey players and good people.
Dartmouth will now look ahead to playing Harvard. The Big Green fell to Harvard 9-2 and 2-1 during their regular season meetings. The 9-2 defeat came when Dartmouth was short a few players-a fact Oberting made sure to point out after the game.
“It looks a little lopsided but I believe they’re beatable,” said Dartmouth defenseman Correne Bredin. “We’re going to have to bring our best game, and we know they will.”