BOSTON — On the heels of twin semifinal upsets, the Dartmouth Big Green made sure to allow no such nonsense in Sunday’s Women’s ECAC Hockey Championship. The tournament’s fourth seed fought off the tenacious giant-killers from Rensselaer for 30 minutes, then routed the Engineers by an eventual 6-1 score by day’s end.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player Sarah Parsons scored a goal with two assists in the victory, as did sophomore Amanda Trunzo. Defender Julia Bronson tallied three assists, Maggie Kennedy and Shannon Bowman each potted a goal with a helper, and Alyssa Boehm and Jenna Cunningham added goals as well for the Big Green (20-9-4). Senior Carli Clemis only required 15 saves to earn her 17th win of the year.
“We talked a lot this year about having enough, and we kept telling the team to believe in themselves, and I think we showed it tonight. I’m really proud of the kids today,” said winning head coach Mark Hudak.
Freshman Jill Vandegrift scored RPI’s lone goal, with Saturday heroine Sonja van der Bliek stopping 28 shots in defeat.
“I wouldn’t change a thing about how we played today,” stated RPI head coach John Burke. “Dartmouth’s just had our number all year.”
Dartmouth maintained the momentum of its 5-2 semifinal win over St. Lawrence, while Rensselaer (19-14-4) couldn’t keep up after a 73-minute take-down of top-seeded Harvard Saturday afternoon. Van der Bliek made 48 stops in the 3-2 win, but was unable to harness the same indefatigable magic on Sunday.
The Big Green broke van der Bliek’s force field early, as Boehm and left wing Parsons flew into RPI’s zone in a two-on-one two and a half minutes in. Parsons tossed a perfectly timed pass across the top of van der Bliek’s crease, and Boehm had little trouble tapping it over the goalie’s optimistic left toe.
Rensselaer failed to mount much of a threat at all in the opening frame, while Dartmouth generated a handful of quality bids. Parsons nearly bought herself another point with a smooth feed to center Bowman, but the puck ticked off her stick to cost her her second goal in two nights.
The Hanover icers outshot their Trojan counterparts 11-4 in Period One, with the Engineers taking the only penalty of the game so far.
After a few evenly played shifts in the second stanza, the longshot Engineers showed the Bright Hockey Center that they weren’t going out without a fight. Red-clad Rensselaer held possession in the offensive zone, allowing senior Nicole McDonald to find rookie Vandegrift on a bang-bang one-timer. The left-to-right-wing pass drew Clemis quickly across the crease, opening the far side for Vandegrift’s sixth goal of the year.
“Everybody at the banquet kept congratulating RPI for getting into the ECACs, and I just kept saying to myself, ‘You might be asking for it,’ because RPI’s a very good team,” said Hudak.
The veteran Green struck right back 70 seconds later, however, as Bowman converted Parsons’ dish into a renewed one-goal lead. Dartmouth kept its foot on the pedal, popping in a third goal not four minutes later.
“The energy on the bench was just incredible after that goal,” said Bowman. “We definitely had a good shift, lots of positive energy, after that goal.”
With snipers lining the fringes of Rensselaer’s zone, Bowman found classmate Bronson at the left-wing point, who promptly redirected the pass to Kennedy on the other side. The third senior on the puck unloaded on the cross, blasting the rubber into the far right corner over van der Bliek’s glove.
“Our first goal was big,” mused Burke. “We just had a little breakdown on the faceoff, they come in on a nice play and it’s Parsons over to Bowman in a tip-in, and then Kennedy just made a bomb on the power-play goal. That gave ‘em some separation.”
Dartmouth handed Rensselaer a lifeline with five minutes to go, taking consecutive penalties including a 30-second five-on-three. Captain Melissa Boik nailed Clemis’ left post from high in the zone, but a dislodged net disrupted the Engineers’ momentum.
A defensive-zone penalty on RPI seemed to deflate the Red beyond recovery, until Whitney Naslund picked up a puck in the neutral zone with nothing but Clemis in the way. Yesterday’s two-time lamp-lighter feigned to the forehand before dragging to the back, but Dartmouth’s stalwart backstop threw out the right leg to send Naslund head-over-heels and the puck out of harm’s way.
Twenty minutes from a fourth league tournament title, the Granite State crew held a 23-12 lead in shots and a 3-1 edge on the scoreboard.
The Green secured their seventh NCAA appearance in the game’s 46th minute as second-line winger Cunningham soared down the right-wing slot and whipped a far-side wrist-shot through van der Bliek.
“It’s definitely something we talked about before the game: just go out there, have no regrets, and leave it all out there because it could be our last game,” said Parsons of the game’s win-or-go-home scenario.
Dartmouth extended the lead to four at 10:22 of the third, as Parsons took Trunzo’s rebound shot and knocked it into the unattended right side of the goal. The score advanced to 6-1 with 4:04 to go as Trunzo tapped home another rebound.
Dartmouth has its eye on a fifth Frozen Four appearance, their first since 2005. Rensselaer fell a game shy of its third-ever 20-win season.
The Green will play in the NCAA quarterfinals next weekend, opponent and time to be determined.