Big Green’s Bite Loudest, Longest
Dartmouth College players Sasha Nanji, left, and Catherine Berghuis, right, join in celebrating teammate Ailish Forfar’s second-period goal last night at Thompson Arena. The Big Green won the ECAC and Ivy League contest, 4-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College forward Jenna Hobeika is sandwiched between Yale defender Madi Murray and goaltender Jaimie Leonoff during last night's ECAC game at Thompson Arena. The Big Green won, 4-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College forward Ali Winkel (3) hustles on the backcheck last night against Yale at Thompson Arena. The Big Green won the ECAC and Ivy League game, 4-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — It wasn’t exactly Tuesday Night Fights, but last night’s women’s hockey game between Dartmouth College and visiting Yale wasn’t peaceful, either. The teams combined for only eight penalties, but that was more the result of lenient officiating than an accurate measure of the players’ growing irritation.
As the final horn sounded on the Big Green’s 4-2 victory, a full-on scuffle broke out around Dartmouth goaltender Lindsay Holdcroft, who absorbed a hit and then dished out a couple of her own. Tackles were made, punches were thrown and the diminutive Holdcroft disappeared inside a surging mass of players. It was the continuation of a distinctly physical game, and it didn’t make Big Green coach Mark Hudak very happy.
“I want them to get in there and protect our goalie, but to keep their hands down,” Hudak said of his troops. “I tell our players that they’re wearing more (protective) equipment than the (U.S. soldiers) in Afghanistan. If somebody takes a shot at you, big deal. If it gets out of hand, let the officials take care of it.”
Forward Cammie Dumais, right there next to Holdcroft at game’s end and at the center of most of the night’s disagreements, is more inclined to vigilante justice.
“Nobody can punch my goalie and expect me to not do anything about it,” said the senior, who played full-contact boys hockey in Montreal until she was 17.
The contest was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but was postponed twice because of snowy weather. Yale’s campus is only now returning to normal activity after receiving nearly 40 inches of snow, and the Bulldogs were forced to make an up-and-back trip for last night’s game.
“We knew they had been traveling on the bus all day, so our game plan was to be relentless and pressure, pressure, pressure them,” said Dumas, whose team improved to 13-7-4 overall and 8-6-3 in ECAC play, while dropping Yale to 4-18-2 and 3-12-2. “When we did that, they bobbled the puck and didn’t make as many good plays.”
Dartmouth surrendered the game’s first goal in the sixth minute, but held a 14-4 shot advantage in the opening period and pinned the visitors in their own end for long stretches of play. Tired and stressed, the Bulldogs became snappish and decorum deteriorated from that point on.
“There were a couple of times in the second period where I thought Yale was being very aggressive and was all over us, but the officials weren’t making any calls,” Hudak said. “Well, our kids aren’t dumb. They read that and figure they can get away with more and things escalate. I wish the way the game was called more consistently, but the (referees) are human and they don’t have an easy job.”
Wouldn’t it be simpler to allow full body-checking in women’s hockey? Hudak shook his head adamantly. He fears doing so would lead to even more aggression and bring concerns over concussions in the men’s game into the women’s sport.
“We have body contact, but not full checking and that’s good,” the coach said. “It opens the play more and we don’t have people trying to separate someone from the puck by laying them out. I like the skill aspect of our game.”
Dumais would enjoy all-out hitting, but doesn’t think implementing it would be a good idea.
“Too many girls play with their heads down and it would get dangerous,” she said.
Dartmouth’s comeback began when Ailish Forfar charged in from the blue line and scored from the high slot with a wrist shot past a backskating defender. That tally, just 54 seconds into the second period, was followed 14 minutes later by a bull rush from teammate Lindsey Allen, who powered her way around a defender from the right wing and scored as she was dropped from behind.
“If you can get the (defender) on your hip, you have to lower your shoulder and protect the puck and drive the net,” Hudak said. “Look for that seam in the defense and be willing to get a little dirty in doing so.”
Dumais scored from the top of the left circle six minutes into the second period. Yale pulled its goaltender for an extra skater and scored with three minutes remaining, but Jessica Gagner fired the puck into an empty net with 45 seconds showing on the clock.
“We weren’t playing badly early on, but we were playing perimeter hockey,” Hudak said. “If we want to play out there, where it’s easy, the other team is going to be fine with that. They’re happy to let you skate around out there, because they know you’re not going to score. In the second and third periods, we did a better job of attacking the net.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.