HANOVER, N.H. — The emotions that have defined the Harvard-Dartmouth rivalry were in full force Friday night in front of 1,555 at Thompson Arena. Intense passion showed on each side as Dartmouth jumped to a 2-0 lead after Harvard co-captain Angela Ruggiero earned a disqualification for kicking Katie Weatherston in the head along the sideboards, and further more as No. 1 Harvard staged a valiant comeback to tie the game 2-2 in the third period.
That all set up a climactic conclusion with Dartmouth’s Gillian Apps taking the puck from Meagan Walton off the faceoff deep in the Harvard zone. She moved in uncontested on Harvard goaltender Ali Boe for the game-winner with 1:10 left.
The 3-2 win snapped the No. 3 Big Green (19-5-2, 11-3-1 ECAC, 6-1-1 Ivy) out of a 1-4-0 funk and just about assured Dartmouth a finish ahead of Harvard (22-3-1, 12-3 ECAC, 5-3-0 Ivy) in the Ivy title race.
“[The wins] keep getting more dramatic and more important with our little slide there” said Dartmouth co-captain Sarah Clark who had a goal and assist for the night. “Scoring with a minute left with so much pressure to win and to stay in the hunt for a national bid, we showed a lot of character and heart.”
Harvard felt it showed plenty of heart too, in how it came back after losing Ruggiero and rebounding to tie the game.
“We’re not a one-person team, we showed that tonight,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “So we lost, so what. A lot of great things happened for our team tonight and I’m very proud of them.”
Harvard’s comeback was ignited by Crimson co-captain Lauren McAuliffe drawing two penalties in the Dartmouth end towards the end of third period. McAuliffe said that helped the team gain momentum and realize it could get the job done.
Junior Nicole Corriero, the nation’s top scorer, finally did get it done for Harvard in converting a feed from Ashley Banfield from behind the net to make the score 2-1 under a minute into the third period.
Then at 3:46 of the third period, sophomore Julie Chu delivered an eye-dazzling individual effort by beating three Dartmouth players down ice and feeding sophomore Jennifer Raimondi at the crease to tie the game. With Harvard short defensemen from Jennifer Skinner’s concussion last week and Ruggiero’s disqualification, Chu filled in at the blue line.
“Chu’s such a versatile player; I think she could go in net if she had to,” McAuliffe said.
Each team had its chances down the stretch. Corriero had a break off a home-run pass from Chu that Dartmouth sophomore goaltender Steph Cochran stopped, one of 29 saves her this night.
Dartmouth’s third line earned a dangerous shot from Krista Dornfried, and Weatherston and Clark had their chances. Then Dartmouth started keeping the play in the Harvard end in the final minutes and finally cashed in.
“We wore them down and stayed on top of them,” Clark said. “We weren’t giving them any opportunities at the end there.”
Despite its third consecutive defeat to Dartmouth, Harvard left prouder of its team than before the game began because of the way it responded to adversity and the sudden in-game adjustments.
“I think we played our hearts out that whole third period and showed a lot of pride in our team and showed our depth, showed what we have, but we just came up short,” McAuliffe said.
The biggest downside is that Harvard struggled in the first period on Friday for the second straight week.
“We didn’t get the puck to the net like we typical do, we’re a little slow of foot but we got ourselves going and we made some things and some people played in some pretty tough situations for us and responded well,” Stone said.
Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak said his team tried a different forecheck that helped and limited the odd-man rushes that had hurt the team in past weeks. The team played better in front of Cochran, who was put in position to succeed. Harvard brought out the best in Dartmouth.
“Looking at the films, they realize it’s a lot of individual errors they’re making on the ice,” Hudak said. “And I think there’s a little bit more focus. Playing Harvard, which is a great rivalry and especially with them being No. 1 in the nation, helps us focus. As much as we want the focus to be internal, sometimes the external factors help.”
The Big Green took a 1-0 lead at 5:16 in the first period when Weatherston found Sarah Clark in front for a soft shot that beat a screened Ali Boe five-hole.
Ruggiero earned her disqualification and five-minute major for kicking when she and Weatherston became entangled on the boards. Ruggiero will miss tomorrow’s Crimson game against Vermont as a result. Clark said it was fortunate Weatherston did not get a concussion on the play.
“[Ruggiero] started off struggling the whole game, and I think she just got frustrated,” Clark said.
Co-captain Lydia Wheatley cashed in off the Ruggiero penalty when she tipped in a shot by Clark from the top of the left circle at 12:51 of the second period and gave Dartmouth a 2-0 lead.
The Ruggiero-Weatherston tustle was just one of many throughout the game. There were several matching minors down the stretch of the third period.
“You certainly know there’s potential for some tempers to be up and emotions to go, and it’s unfortunate,” said Hudak of the various sideshows.
Dartmouth will have to keep its emotions in check tomorrow when it plays another tough Ivy matchup against Brown. Harvard looks to have an easier time against Vermont, and hopes for another chance against Dartmouth down the line.
“These kids are thinking the game we want them to do down the stretch of the season,” Stone said. “So what that we lost. We’ll win when it counts.”