MINNEAPOLIS — Back when Tiffany Hagge was a Minnesota high school star, many imagined she would one day be scoring game-winning goals on the Gophers’ home ice. She did just that in her debut at the Gophers’ Ridder Arena Saturday, but wearing green, instead of maroon and gold.
Hagge’s picture-perfect goal at 11:17 of the second period gave No. 1 Dartmouth (17-1-2) the lead for good in a 3-2 win over the No. 2 Gophers (19-3-1).
After battling through a penalty-filled first period and several Minnesota near-misses in the third, the Big Green passed its toughest test since gaining the No. 1 ranking. The teams play again Sunday afternoon.
On the game-winner, Hagge was the beneficiary of linemates Gillian Apps and Cherie Piper drawing defenders to the right side, allowing Piper to spring Hagge free. With space, Hagge snapped a low shot just inside the far post to the delight of her hometown entourage in attendance.
“This definitely has to be one of favorite goals in a Dartmouth jersey,” Hagge said. “It’s great to score a goal anytime but it was a nice to get it in my hometown.”
The Gophers kept the pressure on Dartmouth for most of the third period and outshot the Big Green 11-6, but they could not get the game-tying goal past freshman Christine Capuano. Minnesota had its chances that period — co-captain La Toya Clarke faked out Capuano from the blue line and cranked the puck off the inside post.
Krissy Wendell beat a last defender one-on-one but put the puck too far ahead of herself. Becky Wacker could not control a lead pass that would have set her free.
The list goes on.
“I had my chances, but I needed to bury some of them early in the game so it doesn’t come down to the last second,” said junior Gopher forward Kelly Stephens.
Dartmouth, much as in its 2-1 win over No. 3 Harvard in January, hung on for dear life at the end. The Big Green got by again with smart play around the net and a little luck.
“I think we had a couple lucky bounces in the third period, but the goalie played well in stopping the initial shot, and we did a really nice job of preventing them from getting a second chance,” said Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak. “They were swinging at the puck but we were all over them.”
Among those fortunate breaks was a dangerous shot from the point that deflected off of Piper’s head out of harm’s way.
“That was one of the bounces we talked about — better my head than the net,” she said.
For the afternoon, Minnesota outshot Dartmouth 34-28, though the Big Green outshot the Gophers 15-9 in the first period, which included eight Gopher penalties to just four for Dartmouth.
The scoring began with each team exchanging power play goals 12 minutes into the first period. Minnesota struck first when Clarke put in a third-chance rebound from the crease at the 12:33 mark Wendell started the threat by beating a defender one-on-one, and Dartmouth couldn’t clear thereafter. Stephens and Noelle Sutton, who earned the assists, each put the puck on net before Clarke put it home.
Dartmouth’s Apps, who like Piper was playing in her first college game in two weeks due to the Canadian national selection camp, tied it up on the power play just 1:18 later thanks to a fortunate bounce. A Lousie Pietrangelo slapshot from the point deflected off a Minnesota defender and perfectly set up Apps wide open on the right side, where she picked her spot past Minnesota goaltender Jody Horak.
Piper put Dartmouth ahead 2-1 in the final minutes of the first period, thanks to a heads-up play by junior Danielle Grundy. After Sarah Clark’s initial shot was stopped by Horak, Grundy snapped the rebound from the crease to Piper, who had just entered the zone. With all sorts of space to work with, Piper fired the puck into the left side of the net, which had been open since Horak moved right to stop Clark’s shot.
The Big Green could have scored more in that period had it not been for squandering two 5-on-3 opportunities. The first lasted 1:33 within the first five minutes of the game, when Dartmouth was still a bit out of sync. The second 5-on-3 would have lasted for the 39 seconds, but the Big Green squandered it from the first draw when Apps got whistled after battling in the corner.
“With a lot of penalties it was hard to gain rhythm, for both teams,” Piper said. “I thought the special teams were good for us in working on puck movement and our passing and, it just carried out throughout the game.”
After the first period, Brad Shepherd had a talk with both captains, telling them that with two great teams on the ice, the number of penalties was getting ridiculous. Such penalty-filled games are typical for Dartmouth, who is among the league’s most penalized teams yet typically draws fewer than its opponents on the same ice. Freshman Danielle Ashley was sucked in the most, drawing five penalties.
“She’s an aggressive player, I’m an aggressive player,” said Stephens of the penalties she and Ashley took. “I think it’s not a negative thing. If anything, it keeps players on the other team keeping their heads up.”
Stephens tied it 2-2 for Minnesota on a sloppy play by Dartmouth early in the second period. Ashley fired a harmless shot towards Capuano with no traffic around her, but she didn’t handle it cleanly. Wendell came back and took the first swipe at the rebound, and Stephens hit the second rebound through. The assist was the 100th point of Wendell’s career.
The Gophers did not find the net for the rest of the day, but Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson didn’t think it was for lack of trying.
“I think they took advantage of their opportunities, and we missed some opportunities,” she said. “We got the opportunities because our team worked hard and generated those chances.”
With the Gophers now more than two weeks removed from their first games without either Olympians Lyndsay Wall or Natalie Darwitz, Halldorson liked what she saw this time, other than the end result.
“I was pleased with how our lines played together today-we’ve gone forward with the players we do have,” she said. “We had a great game against a strong team, and we’re eager to get out there tomorrow and see what we can do.”
Dartmouth claimed the victory despite playing without tri-captain Meghan Walton and leading scorer Katie Weatherston, who are both with the Canadian U-22 team this weekend.