HANOVER, N.H. — When Dartmouth’s Cherie Piper emerged from the penalty box after a 10-minute misconduct penalty, the game she had left was gone forever.
Everything had been going according to plan for Dartmouth in the opening minutes against No. 4 UMD. The No. 2 Big Green had the 1-0 lead in front of 1,250 fans and the three-time defending NCAA champions weren’t coming close to scoring.
But momentum swung the other way when Piper earned a 10-minute misconduct for mouthing off to officials after picking up a minor penalty. Dartmouth fell apart after the call, and from the box Piper endured the sight of four Duluth goals to none for her team.
UMD (8-3) held on for the 6-2 victory. It was the first home loss for Dartmouth (7-1) in over a year.
“Obviously I didn’t agree with the call, but we have to expect our team to play well no matter what happens,” Piper said. “I definitely shouldn’t have taken 10 on it but the frustration level just got to us, and it hurts the team and there’s nothing we can do about it now.”
The victory was huge for a Duluth team that is seeking a new identity after losing several players from last year’s national championship team. U.S. Olympian Jenny Potter and Canadian Olympian Caroline Ouellette each had two goals and two assists.
“They have experience, they went hard and our kids watched,” said Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak. “I don’t think we played good defense against them. If you play timid against Potter and Ouellette they will take you to school.”
The misconduct penalty came about as Piper and Potter’s legs became entangled in the Dartmouth zone. As the two tried to separate, they tumbled into a heap on the ice, but it was Piper who was dealt a minor penalty. Piper’s subsequent protest resulted in the misconduct.
Potter felt that Piper should not have received the penalty.
“I just kind of fell and we just got tangled up, and I fell on top of her and she got a penalty,” Potter said. “I have no control over what the ref calls.”
Piper pinned the blame on Potter.
“We’re both going to have different versions of what happened,” Piper said. “She lost the puck and in her frustration she tangled me up and basically tackled me to the ice, and for me to get a penalty is beyond frustrating.”
UMD made the most of the power play as Potter crossed the puck through the crease to freshman Jessica Koizumi, who one-timed the puck up into the net to tie the game. It was the third time that Potter or Ouellette had connected with Koizumi in front of the net that period, but the first time it resulted in a goal.
As Piper stayed in the box, Dartmouth started reeling and let in a second goal. Ouellette claimed the puck off a defensive zone turnover and set up Potter for a break on net. Potter deked sophomore goaltender Stephanie Cochran to open up just enough space inside the left post for the finish.
“It changed the look that we have and things fell apart at that point,” said Hudak, referring to Piper’s misconduct. “We started watching the puck too much.”
Dartmouth had not allowed the Duluth first line much space prior to the Piper penalty, but the Bulldogs were able to operate at will early in the second period. Potter made them pay when she received a quick pass from Ouellette in the high slot and pocketed the puck inside the right post before Cochran could readjust her position.
“We had our own game plan for matching lines, but it hurt having, not just me, but others in the box,” Piper said.
Six minutes in to the second period, Ouellette made good of another power play, when she circled around the outside of a Dartmouth defender, then cut across the crease and beat Cochran on the left side for the 4-1 lead.
The Duluth power play went 2-for-3 for the game. The UMD power play had ranked just 14th in the country entering the day and the top unit had just three days of practice together to prepare, but good things just happened with talent like Ouellette and Potter on the ice.
With Piper back by the 7:55 mark of the second period, Dartmouth converted on its first power play. Danielle Grundy scored by redirecting an Alana BreMillar shot from the point through traffic. Tiffany Hagge earned the set up the play with a quick pass to BreMillar from the other point.
UMD silenced Dartmouth comeback hopes when the Green’s sloppy defensive zone work gave the Bulldog second line a golden opportunity. Tricia Guest retrieved the puck at the point with space to work with and fired to Juliane Jubinville in the slot, from where she deposited the puck in the open right side of the net.
Ouellette all but iced the game when she sent the puck five-hole through Cochran on a feed from Potter behind the net at the 2:01 mark of the third.
Piper tried to make amends a minute later she broke in all alone on Duluth freshman goaltender Ritta Schaublin, but Schaublin was with Piper all the way as Piper cut across the net. As a final indicator that it just wasn’t Dartmouth’s night, the Big Green earned a 5-on-3 early in the third period. On that series, Apps had a wide-open half of the net to shoot at off a rebound, but she put the puck right into Schaublin’s body.
Dartmouth had been in control prior to the Piper penalty. The Big Green was not letting the Duluth first line get any shots on goal from more than a yard across the blue line, and the other Duluth lines were not even getting the puck out of their own zone.
Dartmouth captain Lydia Wheatley scored just three minutes into the game for the early 1-0 lead. The goal came courtesy off a clearing pass by Suvi Vacker that deflected off Danielle Grundy’s skate and set up Wheatley with an open look at the net, and Wheatley sent the puck through Schaublin’s five-hole.
Schaublin had shaky moments to begin the game, but she was solid down the stretch.
“That first goal–I could have stopped that, so I think that was her wake up call, then she got a little bit stronger as the game went on and when we needed her to be there she was there,” said Duluth coach Shannon Miller.
Schaublin did not make any spectacular-looking saves, but they weren’t necessary because she was positioning herself well with Dartmouth traffic in front of the net, and covering up dangerous pucks in her area. She stopped 26 of 28 for the game. Helping her was that Duluth never gave up the kind of space and scoring opportunities that Dartmouth surrendered to Ouellette and Potter.
Cochran let up 6 goals on 23 shots for the worst start of her career. She had never let up two goals in a start prior to tonight. She was not good enough to overcome the fact that Dartmouth was giving up breakaways and wide-open one-timers.
“There were one or two soft ones, but that certainly wasn’t why we lost the game,” Hudak said. “They left [Cochran] alone a couple of times and there was one time when our D backed into the crease and let them walk in. They might have well have been on their team screening our goalie.”
Now Dartmouth just has to regroup and improve. First order of business will be playing tighter against Potter and Ouellette for more than the game’s first fifteen minutes.
“You want to play Potter and Ouellette tight and not give them the space to wheel around,” Hudak said. “If they score goals they had better be good goals.”
Duluth, meanwhile, can relax somewhat. It would have been devastating for the Bulldogs to lose their fourth game of this season tonight, leading off a stretch of 10 games in a row against ranked teams.
“Since we made the road trip out, we felt we had to win tonight to take the pressure off tomorrow,” Miller said.