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Big Green Settles for Sixth, and a Road Trip

  • Clarkson goaltender Erica Howe closes her glove around the puck last night despite the looming presence of Dartmouth forward Camille Dumais and Golden Knights defender Jennifer Shield. Big Green center Reagan Fischer is at right. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Clarkson goaltender Erica Howe closes her glove around the puck last night despite the looming presence of Dartmouth forward Camille Dumais and Golden Knights defender Jennifer Shield. Big Green center Reagan Fischer is at right. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth defender Zoe Brennan skates past Clarkson’s Vanessa Gagno last night at Thompson Arena. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Dartmouth defender Zoe Brennan skates past Clarkson’s Vanessa Gagno last night at Thompson Arena. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College forward Laura Stacey, left, is congratulated by Camille Dumais after scoring during the Big Green’s game against Clarkson. Dartmouth lost, 3-1. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Dartmouth College forward Laura Stacey, left, is congratulated by Camille Dumais after scoring during the Big Green’s game against Clarkson. Dartmouth lost, 3-1. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clarkson goaltender Erica Howe closes her glove around the puck last night despite the looming presence of Dartmouth forward Camille Dumais and Golden Knights defender Jennifer Shield. Big Green center Reagan Fischer is at right. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • Dartmouth defender Zoe Brennan skates past Clarkson’s Vanessa Gagno last night at Thompson Arena. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • Dartmouth College forward Laura Stacey, left, is congratulated by Camille Dumais after scoring during the Big Green’s game against Clarkson. Dartmouth lost, 3-1. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Hanover — Sixth place it is for the Dartmouth College women’s hockey team. The Big Green, which lost 3-1 to Clarkson at Thompson Arena last night, will finish in that slot in the 12-team ECAC standings, regardless of its result this afternoon against visiting St. Lawrence.

Such a position means Dartmouth must hit the road for the eight-team playoffs, which begin next weekend with best-of-three series at campus sites. The Big Green will travel to either Cornell, Clarkson or Harvard, drawing whichever of those teams finishes in third place. The Big Red is almost assured of the regular season title, for it hosts last-place Union today, while the Golden Knights and the Crimson, currently tied for second place, battle each other in Boston.

“From here on out, we’re the underdog, no doubt about it,” said Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak, whose team fell to 15-8-5 overall and 10-7-4 in ECAC play. “We certainly don’t want to travel to Cornell, but after that, it’s pick your poison. Is it going to be Clarkson, which is big, strong and goes hard? Or is it Harvard, which is skilled and plays a fast game?”

The Big Green is 10-2-2 when it scores first this season, but only 5-6-2 when it surrenders the initial tally. Last night, Clarkson went up 2-0 after 16 minutes. Dartmouth’s Laura Stacey swung out from behind the net and scored during a scrum in the crease three minutes before the first intermission, but the Golden Knights struck again 49 seconds before the break when Cayley Mercer tipped in a shot from the point.

“We came out flat, slow, passive and timid in the first period,” said Hudak, who dressed two sophomores and six freshmen last night. “We had two crummy practices this week and it showed. We’ve had inconsistencies all season but we rely heavily on our younger players and it’s tough to expect consistency from them in big games.

“I was really happy with the second and third periods but we just couldn’t put the puck away. Our passing and a lot of other things were off, but at least in the second and third periods we put pressure on (Clarkson) and created turnovers and got the puck to the net.”

Dartmouth’s power play is 1-of-17 during two games against Clarkson this season and has scored just four times in its last 59 chances. There were other factors last night as well. Defenseman Sasha Nanji, who has mostly limited her wild, up-ice rushes this season, suffered a relapse and continually turned the puck over on forays into the offensive zone.

“She took some risks that were probably not necessary and they didn’t pay off,” Hudak said. “When you play a good team that’s physical, going 1-on-4 isn’t going to work.”

It also didn’t help that senior wing Camille Dumais committed not one, but two roughing penalties during the game’s final 10 minutes. Dumais took a Golden Knight with her on the first infraction, but jawed so profusely at the referees en route to the sin bin that it was no surprise when she went back alone with five minutes to play.

Finally, Dartmouth goaltender Lindsay Holdcroft wasn’t particularly sharp, at least not by the standards the junior has established during the past three seasons. After stopping 34 shots during a scoreless tie at Cornell last weekend, the Pittsburgh native was only mediocre in making her 24th consecutive start last night.

“If you’re going to play a goalie that much, you know she’s going to have an off period or an off game and you hope you weather the storm,” said Hudak, adding that he would have to review video of the game before he could accurately pass judgment on No. 30’s performance. “Last weekend against Cornell, she was outstanding, but the team in front of her did really well and she could see the puck.

“Tonight, the team in front of her didn’t do as well and she was having to deal with shots she maybe wasn’t expecting.”

Notes: Nineteen of Clarkson’s 20 players are Canadian. The lone American is a reserve goaltender. Sixteen of Dartmouth’s 23 players hail from the Land of the Maple Leaf. … The Golden Knights are 25-8 overall and 17-4 in ECAC play. … Kate Milligan, Dartmouth’s backup goaltender, has played twice, the last time on Nov. 3, and fellow reserve Whitney Woodcox hasn’t seen any game action this winter. … Former Big Green captain and standout forward Kelly Foley, who graduated last year, attended the game. Foley, a Boston native, is working in her hometown and plans to attend graduate school at Bentley College in nearby Waltham, Mass.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.