PROVIDENCE — Not long before the start of the Dartmouth-Harvard ECAC final, Big Green coach Judy Parish Oberting informed freshman Stephanie Cochran that she would be getting her first career start because senior standout Amy Ferguson was stuck in the locker room with flu or food-poisoning symptoms.
“She didn’t even flinch,” Oberting said.
Not flinching was characteristic of Dartmouth’s effort against Harvard all afternoon. The No. 4 Big Green (26-7-0) dealt the No. 1 Crimson (29-2-1) one of the worst defeats in ECAC championship history, by a 7-2 margin. Harvard had never trailed by two goals all season prior to Sunday.
Dartmouth was ahead 3-0 after the first and 7-1 after the second. Big Green defenseman Correne Bredin, who scored two goals, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. The loss snapped a 27-game Harvard unbeaten streak.
“We weren’t on our toes to start, No. 1,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “We were a second slow getting rid of the puck. I think it was Dartmouth’s day, pure and simple.”
Oberting felt Harvard was controlling play early in the game before Dartmouth took over.
“First five minutes we allowed Harvard to play their game and we weren’t doing anything,” Oberting said. “That’s when they’re most dangerous, when you give them space, then we took that space away. You could feel the momentum shifting.”
Carly Haggard put Dartmouth ahead at the 8:23 mark when she scored a clean breakaway from the blue line. The Big Green had scored first in its two regular-season losses to Harvard, but Oberting saw something different this time.
“You saw [Harvard] back up a little bit,” Oberting said. “When they’re playing well they’re taking chances, and they have a confidence that forces you back on your heels.”
While Dartmouth was minimizing Harvard’s chances, the Big Green kept coming. Sarah Clark finished a 2-on-1 to make the score 2-0 Dartmouth, and Krista Dornfield scored on a setup in the crease from Katie Weatherston to extend the Dartmouth lead to 3-0 at the intermission.
“I think when we got up early with those three quick goals, they got a little frustrated and panicked,” Bredin said. “At that point we just stuck to the basics.”
Dartmouth knew the game was far from over, but thanks to its aggressiveness at the start of the second period, it soon was. Cheryl Muranko scored on a one-timer from Gillian Apps at the 2:35 mark and Bredin netted a shot from the point at 8:59 to make the score 5-0.
“Even between the first and second we respected Harvard enough to know that could just be a wakeup call for them,” Oberting said. “To get that fourth goal, we needed to play with confidence and composure and it worked out.”
Harvard senior Tracy Catlin scored Harvard’s first goal on a long shot from outside that Cochran bobbled, but Cherie Piper and Bredin each scored in the final two minutes of the second period to extend the Dartmouth to lead to 7-1.
Crimson goaltender Jessica Ruddock was pulled at that point. Cochran kept rolling along. She stopped 33 of 35 shots for the day including several at point-blank range. She was beaten by Catlin again in the third.
“Fergie has carried us here,” Cochran said. “She’d give anything to play this game. She obviously would have had the shutout.”
Oberting said that as soon as Cochran made a few saves early in the game, Ferguson’s absence was not on her mind.
The victory locked up a Frozen Four berth for Dartmouth. The Big Green will next face No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth on Friday in the national semifinals.
Harvard said it would not overanalyze what went wrong in the defeat.
“We’re not pushing the panic button,” Stone said. “We learned a good lesson, we understand we need to be ready to go. What we’re doing all year has worked for us. It’s just a matter of execution.”
The loss cost Harvard the No. 1 seed in the Frozen Four, as the Crimson next plays third-seeded Minnesota. Harvard captain Kalen Ingram said the team recognized after the game it would either be playing Dartmouth or Minnesota — the two teams it lost to during the regular season. The Frozen Four is a welcome chance at redemption.
“I don’t think the rankings matter,” Ingram said. “Our season is in the past. It’s all a matter of who shows up on Friday and Sunday.”