BOSTON — The ECAC was full of surprises this season, and Saturday was no different. Following a shocking RPI upset of top-seeded Harvard in the noon semifinal, underdog Dartmouth flipped the tables on second-seed St. Lawrence with a 5-2 throttling in the evening semi.
Five different Ivy players scored, Carli Clemis made 26 saves, and Dartmouth (19-9-4) scored on two-of-six power plays in building a 5-0 third-period lead. Senior Alison Domenico and junior Courtney Sawchuk scored late and Brittony Chartier stopped 20 for St. Lawrence (24-10-3), who lost to the Big Green after beating them twice in the regular season.
“Our game plan was to come in and just be relentless and pressure them all over the ice, and I think that’s what we did,” said Dartmouth senior co-captain Shannon Bowman. “Every game for us now can be our last game, and I think we realized that going into this game. We wanted to leave it all out there, with no regrets.”
Rookie center Reagan Fischer opened things up early, converting a Sarah Toupal pass into the game’s first goal only 2:30 into the game. The Big Green controlled most of the play in the opening period, and were rewarded with a doubled lead with 5:30 to play.
With freshman winger Alley Bero in the bin for hooking, the fourth-seeded Green saturated the St. Lawrence zone. Sophomore Amanda Trunzo took an initial shot from the left-wing slot that Chartier kicked out, but winger Sarah Parsons popped the rebound right back into the goalie. The puck dropped off to Chartier’s left, where Bowman finally put it into the twine.
Dartmouth wasn’t done yet, as Boston-bred freshman Kelly Foley extended her team’s lead to three. Defenseman Julia Bronson found the fleet-footed winger sprinting through a neutral-zone seam, and Foley beat Chartier high to the glove side.
“Territorially, I thought we had a good first period, and they had three quick strikes on us and obviously put us on our heels,” said SLU head coach Chris Wells. “I don’t think we changed our game at all, and they kept coming.”
“We just went out there with that attitude, that this could be our last game and they weren’t going to take that away from us,” said Bowman.
The Green only tallied 10 first-period shots, but bounced into the intermission with a 3-0 lead. SLU totaled five first-period shots, but handicapped itself with three penalties to Dartmouth’s two.
The second period featured only two penalties (both against Dartmouth), but the action never posed a serious threat to the status-quo score and the shot totals were nearly equivalent to the first period’s sum. The Saints popped 10 Clemis’ way, while Chartier stopped all six she saw in the St. Lawrence net.
“I thought Carli had a great game today,” praised her head coach Mark Hudak. “I thought what she really did well, was she played goal. She didn’t try to do too much, stayed pretty big in the net, and she trusted the people in front of her that if she made the save, they were going to clear the rebound. I thought we did a nice job of that today.”
Dartmouth nearly widened the gap further over the Saints, but had a power-play goal waved off due to an offensive player occupying space in Chartier’s crease. It didn’t take long for the Green to compensate for their error however, as junior winger Jenna Cunningham jammed a cross-crease puck through the frustrated netminder.
Wells elected to lift Chartier during a St. Lawrence power play in the game’s 52nd minute, but the risky move backfired as Dartmouth salted the game away with a long Parsons volley.
“We adjusted a little bit in the third period, but it wasn’t so much about protecting the lead as about protecting our legs a little bit,” said Hudak. “We’ve got a quick turnaround for tomorrow, but strategically, we really didn’t change much at all.”
Domenico scored in what she hopes won’t be her final game, breaking Clemis’ shutout with 3:19 remaining. Lisa Batchelor fed on-rushing defender Sawchuk for a short-handed goal with barely a minute left, but the deficit was too much to overcome so late.
After such a convincing display on Saturday, Hudak elected a hands-off approach to team management prior to the title game.
“I’m leaving it up to the seniors,” he stated. “There isn’t much I need to do as a coach. The kids understand what needs to be done.”
Dartmouth’s victory avenged last season’s 3-1 semifinal loss to the Canton club, and marked the third year in a row that the programs met in the league’s Final Four.
The Saints might be pulling for their Saturday executioners on Sunday, as there is an outside chance that a Rensselaer victory in the ECAC Hockey championship could end SLU’s otherwise impressive season. The Big Green shoot for their fourth league tournament title and their second in three years; a loss to RPI will likely eliminate Dartmouth from NCAA contention as well.