HANOVER, N.H. — There’s Tin Pan Alley. Lover’s Lane. The Information Superhighway. Now there’s Comeback Route. And, right now, no one seems to handle the driving better than the Dartmouth women’s hockey team.
The Big Green spotted Wisconsin a trio of one-goal leads, came back from each and used Katie Weatherston’s third-period rebound strike for a 4-3 NCAA tournament regional win at Thompson Arena last night.
After a wild Wisconsin-led first period, Dartmouth (27-6-0) shut the high-flying Badger attack down on 14 shots over the final two periods and methodically made its way to Friday’s Frozen Four semifinal against No. 1 Minnesota.
“I think our team has a quiet confidence,” said Dartmouth junior forward Cherie Piper, who scored once and set up a pair of Big Green goals last night. “We know we’re capable of coming back on teams.”
Dartmouth did just that twice in the first period and a third time early in the second before taking the lead for good with 5:33 to play.
Catching the Badgers on a line change, Weatherston worked the puck quickly through the neutral zone and dropped a pass to Piper on the right wing, just beyond the Wisconsin blue line. Piper uncorked a 45-foot bomb that Badger goaltender Meghan Horras knocked down. The junior got a piece of Cheryl Muranko’s rebound as well, but the second-chance ricochet popped right to the charging Weatherston, who converted from the open left side.
“I was happy with it being 3-3 after the second period; it comes down to a 20-minute game and who’s going to make the first mistake or who’s going to create an opportunity to win the game,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. “Unfortunately for us, we made the mistake.”
The first 20 minutes looked like a shootout, which could be expected from a matchup of the No. 2 and No. 3 offenses in the country.
Sharon Cole got the Badgers (28-9-1) started by chipping home a Sara Bauer feed at 7:37 of the first period, taking advantage when Big Green defender Alana BreMiller fell on a Wisconsin two-on-one.
Dartmouth responded in similar fashion at 11:43, only in busier traffic, with Gillian Apps redirecting a Tiffany Hagge feed from the right flank past Horras.
Nikki Burish gave the Badgers their second lead at 13:24, only to have Weatherston equalize at 17:22 on her own power-play rebound. Bauer’s go-ahead strike at 19:24 once against handed Wisconsin the lead, but it wasn’t the Badgers’ kind of game.
“We’re usually a little bit tighter on defense,” senior Wisconsin defenseman Carla MacLeod said. “We tend to win games 2-0 or 2-1, and when we start getting three goals in a period, you’re wondering what road you’re going down.”
Whatever the route, Dartmouth’s combination of Piper, Weatherston and Muranko were driving.
Piper tied the game once against at 4:56 of the second period, taking a Weatherston pass at center point and zipping a wrister past Horras’ outstretched right leg. Muranko started the play by winning the puck in the left-wing corner.
All three then played a hand in the game-winner, sending the Big Green to its third Frozen Four in as many years and its fourth in five seasons.
“The defense was awesome in the last two periods,” Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak said. “We talked about it going in between the first and second that we needed to tighten up a little bit. We made a couple of adjustments, but it was more mental toughness, staying with our checks.
“In the third period we wanted to tighten up a little more, bring our forwards a little closer inside the dots, and the kids responded just awesomely.”
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.