BOSTON, Mass. — Given St. Lawrence’s success in coming back from a 2-0 third period deficit against Yale last weekend, Saints coach Paul Flanagan suggested that his players pretend to be under similar pressure when coming out in the ECAC semifinals against Dartmouth on Saturday.
Despite the advice, the Saints still faced a 1-0 first intermission deficit before getting going. For the fifth time in their last seven games, they came from behind to win, this time by a 3-1 margin at the Bright Hockey Center.
“It’s been a trait of this team recently that they believe in themselves and there’s no panic at all,” Flanagan said. “We have a lot of veterans who exude this confidence.”
The victory advances St. Lawrence (28-8-1) to the ECAC final to face Harvard, while the loss left Dartmouth (18-8-6) squarely on the NCAA bubble. The Big Green will discover their fate when selections are announced at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Special teams told the whole story of the game. The two teams had similar rankings in the key specialty stats coming into the game, but St. Lawrence won the day by going the 3-for-7 on the power play compared to Dartmouth’s 1-for-8.
Senior goalie Meaghan Guckian, who stopped 26 of 27 overall, led the Saints’ penalty kill efforts. Her only blemish was a goal by Shannon Bowman on a scramble in front of the net five minutes into the game. The victory provided some vindication, since she was lit up against Dartmouth in last year’s 7-3 ECAC championship defeat.
“It was really nice to get tonight’s win and let in six less goals,” Guckian said. “When you have girls in front of you playing their butts off on the PK, it makes things a lot easier.”
Saints’ top scorer Sabrina Harbec tied the game three minutes into the second period when linemate Carson Duggan set her up all alone in front. The Saints then took the lead with 2:13 left in the period when Grills one-timed a feed from defenseman Annie Guay past Dartmouth goalie Carli Clemis.
Defenseman Brittaney Maschmeyer scored on a screen shot from the point seven minutes into the third period for the final 3-1 advantage.
“At this point in the season you’ve worked enough on execution, it’s instinctive,” Flanagan said of his team’s power play success.
The victory put the Saints in the ECAC final for the third time in school history, but they have had little prior success at this advanced stage. In addition to last season’s 7-3 loss to Dartmouth, the Saints fell 6-1 to Harvard in 2004. St. Lawrence can ill afford another slow start.
“I don’t think it’ll be a good idea to let them score two goals before us,” Harbec said. “We’re going to have to start to play from the first minute and play all 60 minutes.”
Dartmouth’s fate, meanwhile, is left in the hands of the National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Committee. If heavily-favored New Hampshire prevails against Providence in the Hockey East final, then Dartmouth and Clarkson will be neck-and-neck for the final at-large bid.
Dartmouth beat and tied Clarkson in the teams’ two head-to-head meetings. But right now Clarkson beats Dartmouth in the three other selection criteria. The Golden Knights have a superior record against teams under selection consideration (5-7-2 vs. 3-7-2) and common opponents (18-7-3 and 16-7-3). In the RPI, Clarkson leads by the slimmest of margins (.5604 versus .5596).
The team RPIs were so close that Dartmouth led entering the day, but fell behind because Clarkson’s opponent Harvard was a stronger opponent than St. Lawrence.
Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak is holding out hope that the committee will look favorably on Dartmouth’s head-to-head advantage given the closeness of the other criteria.
“It’s very close with Clarkson and us,” Hudak said. “I guess when it’s that close you hope they look at our in-season games. I think it’s probably going to be one of those instances when it’s up to the committee to make a tough decision on that. I think the case for us being able to go is strong.”