Green Goes Young
Dartmouth Will Rely on Underclassmen
Dartmouth’s Laura Stacey, shown facing down Cornell’s Alyssa Gagliardi during a game last season, will be counted on to lead the Big Green this season. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Hanover — Thirty minutes after their Tuesday practice officially concluded, half a dozen members of the Dartmouth College women’s hockey team remained on the Thompson Arena ice, shooting and skating before coach Mark Hudak shooed them off to make way for the Zamboni.
It’s a trait that could serve the Big Green players and their boss well this season, because this is one of the youngest teams Hudak’s had in nearly a decade. Dartmouth’s 19-skater active roster includes seven freshmen and five sophomores, but only three seniors. Whereas in previous years, the team featured four forward lines, it will skate with only three this winter.
Given the prevalence of youth, the lack of depth and season victory totals that have fallen from 22 to 18 to 16 the past three seasons, Hudak appears to have his hands full. Nonetheless, the 11th-year coach is excited about the upcoming campaign.
“There’s a lot of teaching and patience going on, not only with me, but with our whole coaching staff and the older players,” said Hudak, whose team finished sixth out of 12 ECAC teams last winter and was swept out of the playoffs’ first round at Harvard.
“We make a lot of inexperienced mistakes, which is what you’d expect. But it’s fun to be doing that teaching, because it’s the essence and the fun part of coaching.”
Dartmouth is down a few players because of several factors. First, the program graduated nine seniors after last season, but Hudak decided he didn’t want such a large class again. So he brought in only seven freshman in an attempt to balance the classes over the long term. That move was followed by junior forward Abbie Lund departing the team and sophomore forward Ailish Forfar requiring season-ending hip surgery.
Three of Dartmouth’s remaining players are goaltenders, so that leaves three forward lines, three defensive pairings and one spare. Should injuries strike in any significant numbers, Dartmouth could be in real trouble. A lesser concern is that opponents with superior depth will doubtless try to skate the Big Green out of the building.
“There are so many little things that are tough to execute at the beginning of the season,” said Hudak, whose team opened its season with a 7-2 loss at Boston College last weekend and hosts Princeton and Quinnipiac today and Saturday to open its ECAC slate. “When you add in players who are doing them for the first or second time at this level, you’re going to make mistakes.
“The good thing is there’s a lot of room for growth, and I really like the kids we have. If we can get through the first five or six games without hurting ourselves (in the standings) too much, we’ll be OK.”
Dartmouth’s best player, at least in terms of pure skill, is forward Laura Stacey, a 5-foot-11 sophomore who participated in Canada’s U22 national team development camp during August. Stacey was third in scoring as a freshman, with eight goals and 14 assists, but she’s the only one of last season’s top five scorers who didn’t graduate. She’s scored more college points than anyone else on the roster, and she’ll be the focus of opposing defenders.
“We saw that at BC,” Hudak said. “If we moved her to a different position on a faceoff, their whole bench was shouting and pointing at her. But if teams are going to get that focused on her, we have to go a different way. We have enough other talent that if teams do that, we might burn them.”
Among those who will have to step up is wing Lindsey Allen, a sophomore who had seven goals and seven assists in 31 games as a freshman. Powerfully built, the Toronto native now has to show she has the skill to go with her frame. Another scoring prospect is junior Karlee Odlund, a once-touted recruit who’s had only nine goals in 48 Dartmouth games. Freshman center Kennedy Ottenbreit played for the U18 Canadian national team, but will have to learn the college game on the fly.
The Big Green doesn’t have a true offensive defenseman, but returns stay-at-home types Lauren Kelly, Morgan Illikainen, Zoe Brennan and Olivia Whitford. Senior goaltender Lindsay Holdcroft is the team’s rock, but last season’s team sometimes relied on its diminutive backstop too heavily and too often. Dartmouth finished 16-10-5 overall and 11-7-4 in ECAC play.
“We wanted to tweak the culture of the team because the last couple of years, we’ve felt we’ve plateaued,” Holdcroft said. “Everyone has to have a role in our leadership.”
Last year’s leadership wasn’t ideal. Senior forward Camille Dumais’ feisty attitude boiled over into a distraction at times and led to selfish penalties. Classmate and rushing defenseman Sasha Nanji helped the attack, but sometimes hurt the back line. And the fact that co-captains Reagan Fischer and Jenna Hobeika were fifth-year players became a bit of an issue.
“Some of the (fourth-year seniors) felt they were denied that opportunity,” Hudak said. “Last year was tough, having nine seniors and trying to get them on the same sheet of music. There was never a point where it came to a head, but that group wasn’t able to work all that well together.”
“This year with three seniors, it’s easier in some ways, but they’ve got a lot more people to lead.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.