HANOVER, N.H. — Minnesota came into Thompson Arena on Saturday with the No. 1 ranking, the No. 1 power play, the No. 1 offense and the No. 1 defense. But in the end, it was Dartmouth who left looking better in every respect.
The Big Green (11-0-0) triumphed 7-5 over the Gophers (14-1-2) in a game that lived up to its billing for the 1,768 in attendance. Minnesota jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes, and Dartmouth stormed back to tie it thanks to a five-on-three. Dartmouth led 5-3 after two periods, and Minnesota needed just 2:14 in the third period to erase that lead. Dartmouth needed just seconds to take the lead again, but this time it stuck, and Minnesota’s 27-game unbeaten streak was finished.
“We’re not going to win any games when we give up seven goals,” said Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson, who will get to rematch Dartmouth tomorrow at 11 a.m. “We made some mistakes that cost us, and their power play was huge for them today.”
Junior Katie Weatherston scored the game-winner at 2:51 of the third period on a top-shelf rebound. Weatherston finished with a hat trick and an assist, while junior Cherie Piper had two goals and four assists. Minnesota may have the top line in the country, but Dartmouth had the depth today.
“Katie’s a dynamic player, she’s maturing and making good decision, but Katie doesn’t do it without the cast she has around her,” said Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak. “We have kids out there that everyone has to pay attention to. You can’t just focus on one. It opens things up and allows kids like Piper and Weatherston to be creative.”
Dartmouth co-captain Meagan Walton, who had two goals and an assist, scored four minutes later on a power play rebound for the 7-5 lead. Dartmouth finished 4-for-6 on the power play. Minnesota’s top-ranked unit went 2-for-8.
Dartmouth junior goaltender Kate Lane finished with 31 saves on 36 shots, including 23 of the last 25 to preserve the win down the stretch. Minnesota goalie Jody Horak stopped just 10 of 17 of Dartmouth’s high-quality shots. The game’s scoring pace finally slackened in the final 13 scoreless minutes.
“We made some mistakes that Minnesota could have capitalized on, but they didn’t have that little extra step to capitalize that they normally do, and same with us,” Hudak said. “But I never in my life imagined it would be a 7-5 game.”
The Gophers looked like they’d have their way against the Big Green over the first 10 minutes as junior defenseman Krista Johnson scored on a screen shot from the point for the 1-0 lead, and Krissy Wendell found fellow top-liner Natalie Darwitz in front for an easy finish inside the right post for a 2-0 lead.
But two quick Gopher penalties shortly thereafter allowed the Big Green to come roaring back. As Darwitz and Wendell over-aggressively attacked the blue line on the 5-on-3, Piper passed to an open Weatherston, who buried the puck on the far side. Just 20 seconds later, Alana BreMiller went across the slot to Walton, for a far side finish of her own.
“I think we’re just moving the puck really well around the perimeter [on the power play] and setting up those outside shots, and we had good numbers in front of the net,” Weatherston said.
Just seconds into an eventful Minnesota power play at 17:18, Weatherston stunned the Gophers when she stole the puck, deked two defenders one-by-one and finished with a powerful backhand past Horak.
Hudak had yelled to Weatherston from the bench to shoot the puck as soon as she beat the first defender. After she scored, he turned to assistant coach Kristina Guarino and said, “Glad she didn’t listen to me.”
“It was definitely a great feeling, whenever you score shorthanded, it’s a big pickup for your team,” Weatherston said. “We fed off that well and kept the intensity going and didn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
The Gophers tied the game within the next minute when Minnesota freshman Bobbi Ross scored her trademark style power play goal when she put back the rebound off a Lyndsay Wall power play shot from the point.
Two goals by Piper early in the second period gave Dartmouth a 5-3 lead. Piper scored the first from the point on the power play 2:40 into the period.
“I think we’ve always had the talent, but it’s more gaining confidence,” Piper said of Dartmouth’s power play success. “The more we play together the better we’re going to be together. We’re not rushing the puck or not trying to take it quickly. I think we have that patience and poise.”
Piper scored her second goal at 6:47 as she intercepted a Minnesota pass off her chest right in front of the net for an easy finish, an aggressive play after she had lost the draw clean. Piper’s playing status had been questionable up until a few days before, and Dartmouth was certainly grateful to have her.
“She does smart things when she has the puck, she doesn’t over commit,” Hudak said. “She’s just a smart player.”
Minnesota only allowed one other shot for the entire second period. The Gophers had several chances to cut into the deficit that period, but the Gophers hit two pipes and Lane stopped nine others. The best chances came from Noelle Sutton right in front of the net, but Dartmouth somehow kept the puck out every time.
The Gophers needed just 2:14 of the third period to erase the 5-3 lead. Lane was caught napping in the early seconds when a puck bounced out in front from behind and Darwitz unloaded. Lane was lucky to stop the first one, but Kelly Stephens was there for the rebound. Andrea Nichols tied the game on an uncontested wrap-around on the power play, but the Gophers would score no more.
Minnesota will lick its wounds and bounce back quickly for an 11 a.m. game on Sunday. Stephens, the Gopher co-captain, said the team will look to be more focused.
“When our offense got on a roll, we forgot about defense,” Stephens said. “You have to be ready every single shift and show up to play.”
Dartmouth knows that it will have a tough time winning again tomorrow if it repeats some of its lapses from today.
“We’re definitely going to be better off the faceoffs and come out hard right off the start, limiting our mistakes because they will capitalize,” Weatherston said. “They have the talent to do that.”