The Big Green does not like trailing in games.
Faced with a deficit for the first time this season, No. 2 Dartmouth needed just 77 seconds to take a 3-2 lead on two goals by junior Gillian Apps and just 64 seconds more for sophomore Caroline Ethier to extend the lead to two goals. The scoring spurt that began with 7:23 left in the second period carried the Big Green (10-0) to a 4-3 win over the Wildcats (9-3-1).
“We never like to be behind,” Apps said. “When we went down, we took it upon ourselves to react quickly and come back right away.”
Dartmouth had many scoring opportunities in the first period but could only take a 1-0 lead into intermission on a Ethier’s first of two goals. The Big Green outshot the Wildcats 14-3 in the first frame, and three other shots hit pipes.
“They put a lot of pressure on us in the first period,” said UNH coach Brian McCloskey. “We spent way too much time in our own zone, and the hardest thing is to control some of their players.”
The Wildcats made adjustments and responded in the second period. Senior captain Stephanie Jones scored two of her three goals on the night to put UNH up by one. It was the first deficit Dartmouth had faced in 10 games.
Off of the ensuing faceoff, a UNH turnover in the neutral zone created a breakaway opportunity for Apps, who was denied on her initial shot. However, she circled back to the front of the crease and one-timed a pass from senior Meagan Walton into the net just 26 seconds after the second UNH goal.
“I think when we’re in the lead or tied most of the time, it makes us more confident and more willing to take risks,” said Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak. “It also makes us want to fight back when we’re down,”
Less than a minute later, Apps’ second goal put the Big Green ahead 3-2. The play looked like a carbon-copy of her first – another one-timer on an assist by Walton.
“Apps is a monster on the ice. She can single-handedly beat a team out there,” McCloskey said. “Realistically, we got a couple of breaks on the two goals, but those two [goals by Apps] gave them a huge momentum swing.”
Shortly after Ethier’s insurance goal put Dartmouth up 4-2, Jones completed the hat trick. It was not enough as the Wildcats were unable to mount much offense in a physical third period.
“Jones stepped up big tonight,” McCloskey said. “Her line gave Dartmouth fits, just like Apps’ line gave us a lot of trouble. I think they had chances to go up 5-3, and we had chances to tie. We were evenly matched there for a while.”
A scoreless third period gave Dartmouth sophomore Christine Capuano her fifth win of the season. She made 17 saves on the 20 shots she faced. UNH goalie Melissa Bourdon faced 29 shots and made 25 saves.
The Big Green was short-benched again in the victory. Dartmouth was without junior forward Cherie Piper and senior blue-liner Kirstin Anderson.
“Tonight was an example of different people stepping up at different times,” Hudak said. “A lot of it has to do with effort. Individuals focus on the team regardless of the line combinations or injuries. It was an awesome team effort all around.”
UNH returns home to face Connecticut this weekend. Dartmouth will take its first 10-0 start in program history into exam break and prepare against No. 1 Minnesota, the only other undefeated team remaining in Division I women’s hockey.
“We have been making an effort not to look at [Minnesota],” Hudak said. “We have been playing some good teams. And now the kids have to focus on final exams.”
If Minnesota remains unbeaten after a pair of games at No. 4 Wisconsin, the Big Green and the Gophers will put both of their undefeated records on the line in a pair of games on Dec. 11th and 12th.
“They’re a great team, and we have to honor their talent,” Apps said. “If we can sweep the weekend, we will come out the top ranked team in the country.”