Surging Catamounts Finally Beat Big Green
Dartmouth College forward Ali Winkel (3) moves to collect a rebound in front of goaltender Lindsay Holdcroft and defenseman Zoe Brennan on Wednesday. The Big Green lost, 1-0, in overtime to visiting Vermont and fell to 2-11 this season. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College players Laura Stacey (7), Lindsay Holdcroft (30) and Ali Winkel (3) absorb their team's 1-0 overtime loss to visiting Vermont on Wednesday while the Catamounts celebrate in the background. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — Wednesday night’s women’s hockey game between Dartmouth College and visiting Vermont had the intensity, if not the skill level, of an important playoff contest. Given the way the Big Green’s season is going, however, its 1-0 overtime loss to the Catamounts might be the closest it gets to the postseason this winter.
Amanda Pelkey’s breakaway goal with a minute remaining in the extra session dropped Dartmouth’s record to 2-11. At this rate, the Big Green will not only fail to qualify for the playoffs as one of the 12-team ECAC’s top eight finishers, it will post the worst record in the program’s 37-year history.
Women’s hockey became a varsity sport at Dartmouth for the 1977-78 season. The Big Green has since suffered just four losing seasons, the worst of which was an 8-11-1 mark during the 1978-79 campaign. Dartmouth was 12-14-2 and missed the playoffs four years ago, and this season’s squad would have to win 10 of its remaining 15 games to accumulate a dozen victories.
Wednesday’s outcome was UVM’s first defeat of Dartmouth in 17 meetings since the Catamounts achieved varsity status in 1995. The visitors improved to 8-7-4 after going 8-21-4 last winter and 4-22-6 two years ago.
“It’s frustrating, because, yeah, we’re young, but we shouldn’t be making some of these mistakes anymore,” said Big Green coach Mark Hudak, whose squad struggled to handle the puck cleanly and to break out of its own end. “Because we’re so young, when that first mistake happens, we’re not experienced enough to (anticipate the play) and cover for it. We’re making a lot of mistakes and we can’t recover.”
Dartmouth got yet another standout performance from long-suffering goaltender Lindsay Holdcroft, who made 24 saves, and it held UVM scoreless in six power-play chances. The Big Green next plays against Providence (7-11) at Thompson Arena on Dec. 31 before visiting No. 8 Boston University (14-3-1) in early January.
Wednesday, Dartmouth was outshot 10-4 during the first period and Hudak said he didn’t sugarcoat his assessment of the stanza to his players.
“We stunk,” said the coach, whose team has lost five consecutive games. “We got beat to loose pucks and knocked off the puck when we had it. I was not happy with the effort. Between the first and second periods today was the first time this season that I told (the players) they were really bad.”
Dartmouth rebounded a bit during the second and third periods, but there was still a sense the Big Green was hanging on by its fingertips. That proved true when Catamounts defenseman Gina Rapaci fired a pass from blue line to blue line and sent Pelkey away on her deciding breakaway, splitting defenders Morgan Illikainen and Emma Korbs before beating Holdcroft with a backhand flip.
“What’s frustrating is we played a really good second and third period and we fought so hard,” said Dartmouth forward Laura Stacey, who led her team with six shots. “To have it all thrown away by one little shot is hard.”
Jim Plumer, UVM’s second-year coach, said posting his program’s first victory over the Big Green wasn’t a particularly significant accomplishment.
“It’s a nice thing for a program that hasn’t had a lot of success, but this isn’t Dartmouth’s best year,” he said. “If we beat them and they were a top 10 team, maybe that would be something to brag about. We’ve had trouble finishing games, so just getting a win was more important for us.”
Dartmouth would like to just get more goals. The Big Green has been outscored 38-15 this season and sophomores Lindsey Allen (five) and Catherine Berghuis (three) have combined for more than half their team’s tallies. The return of Stacey, who suffered a Nov. 15 knee injury, is a big plus, but the Canadian star said she’s still tentative on the tender joint and is playing with a large brace under her sock and shin pad.
“We’ve been trying, but (offense) is just not coming,” Stacey said. “We have to regroup over the break and come back mentally refreshed, because we’ve been down on ourselves and that’s one of the main reasons we’re in this situation.
“We have to play like we practice and the puck’s got to go in eventually. It’s going to take time, but it will come.”
If it doesn’t come soon, Dartmouth’s campaign will end in early February, when the regular season concludes.
Notes: UVM has two players from Vermont and one each from Florida, Arizona and California. … Dartmouth returns to practice on Dec. 27. ... UVM is 6-1-2 when scoring first, while Dartmouth is 0-6 when surrendering the first goal. … The Catamounts have lost once in their last nine games. … Pelkey, a junior from Montpelier and the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, tied for her program’s career lead in goals with her Wednesday tally. … Plumer, who previously guided Amherst to two Division III national championships in nine years at the school, said this season is the first that his program has been awarded 18 scholarships by the university, the maximum allowed by the NCAA at the Division I level.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.