To the surprise of no one, the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated the ECAC East All-Stars at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena on Sunday. The final score of 16-0, however, contrasted sharply with the performance of the WCHA All-Star Team, which lost by the more respectable scores of 3-0 and 6-1 a week before.
U.S. National Team Coach Ben Smith said part of the reason for the discrepancy is that Sunday’s game was his team’s last before it plays a pair with Canada next week.
“Canada is just a week away, so we’re trying to up our tempo in practice,” Smith said. “It’s hard to get game-sharp at any level, so we really wanted to come in here and play sixty hard minutes.”
Smith said he instructed his team to simulate a one-goal lead throughout the game, so the United States never let down. The ECAC East never came close to scoring, rarely controlled the puck past the neutral zone and was outshot 74-15 on the afternoon.
Former Providence star Laurie Baker, who returned to the national team this season after taking off last season, earned MVP earners for netting a hat trick and assisting on two goals. Veteran Cammi Granato, Minnesota-Duluth’s Jenny Potter-Schmidgall, and future Minnesota freshman Krissy Wendell each found the net twice for the United States.
Eleven different players scored in all for the United States, including three defensemen. The team had concentrated on improving its skating skills and encouraging some of its defenseman to overlap and join the attack. Both improvements led to defenseman Angela’s Ruggiero’s goal-the United States’ third-when she finished an odd-man rush off the stick of Princeton’s Andrea Kilbourne.
“I’m given the opportunity to be one of the more offensive-minded defenseman on this team,” said Ruggiero, a Harvard athlete who is one of several U.S. National players who still has college eligibility. “With that I get to rush up with the play and our forwards now to cover my position at defense. It’s fun.”
New Hampshire’ junior Jen Huggon earned the ECAC’s Player of the Game honors for her solid play in net. She stopped 34 of 39 shots and did not allow a soft goal all afternoon. Niagara senior Tania Pinelli had tougher luck, stopping just 25 of 36 shots. She particularly struggled during final five minutes of the third when the U.S. the lit the lamp four times including once on a shot that was intended to be pass.
Another factor in the All-Stars’ struggles was the start of the college hockey season this past weekend. The Providence representatives on the team, sophomore Kelli Halcisak, junior Jenn Bustch and senior Kim Mathias played two games in Minnesota-Duluth over the weekend before landing in Boston to play with All-Stars just 90 minutes before game time.
The ECAC East produced none of the four teams that made the Inaugural Women’s Frozen Four in 2001 or the USA Hockey-sponsored AWCHA championship at Matthews Area in 2000. Though members like New Hampshire, Northeastern and Providence may not be national contenders now, they have produced 10 of the players on the current United States roster, but none older than goaltender Sara DeCosta.
“We’re really appreciative of what the ECAC has given us,” said Smith, who is a former Northeastern coach. “And we’ve been doubly satisfied because so of many our players come from these schools’ rosters. Its an association that’s really great for us to continue.”
The U.S. National Team’s last of four games against college hockey all-stars will be on Oct. 28 against the ECAC North All-Stars at Cornell’s Lynah Rink.