With four seconds left and a safe 6-3 lead over No. 3 Minnesota, Dartmouth coach Judy Oberting called a surprise timeout. It wasn’t to make a statement to the Gophers she said, but rather to preserve the moment. For the Big Green, it was as close to a full team as they had dressed all season due to injuries and national-camp interruptions, and the results showed with a full effort on the ice.
“It was something our team needed to realize — this is what we can do,” Oberting said. “We hadn’t done this all year. We could not let that moment pass.”
No. 4 Dartmouth (12-5-0) came out blazing with a 3-0 first-period lead over the Gophers (17-3-1) and never trailed en route to its first victory over a top-three opponent all year. The victory may have come at a cost, however, as first-line center Meagan Walton crashed into the boards in the third period and may have broken a leg.
Dartmouth freshman Cherie Piper and senior Correne Bredin — two players absent for last week’s sweep by No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth — returned in style. Piper led Dartmouth with two goals and an assisted on a critical goal by Bredin in the final seconds of the second period.
“Definitely with national team camp [interruptions] it’s frustrating for us and our team, so it’s very positive that they played well without us. And then with us, we showed our team is ready to play and we’re ready for the rest of the season,” Piper said.
Dartmouth wanted to make a statement to start the game. Oberting said she thought Minnesota didn’t look sharp in warmups and that Minnesota goaltender Judy Horak appeared to playing deep in her net without a lot of presence.
Carly Haggard put the Big Green up 1-0 when she deflected in a shot through traffic from the point by Gillian Apps on the power play. Piper’s first goal was a highlight-reel score that came when she snapped an instantaneous top-shelf wrist shot from the right faceoff circle to put Dartmouth up 2-0 in the first period. She also added an empty-netter with 26 seconds left. Katie Weatherston picked up the Big Green’s third goal when she cut in front of a screen set by another Big Green player and slipped a backhand shot by Horak.
The biggest goal of the game was Bredin’s. With 12 seconds left in the second period, and the Big Green clinging to a 3-2 lead, Bredin sunk a dagger when she drove home a crossing pass from Piper that had been deflected but happened to land flat in front of the net, ripe for Bredin’s picking as she crashed the net.
“[Bredin’s goal] was huge going into third period,” Piper said. “3-2 or 4-2 is completely different game.”
On the blue line, Bredin’s physical presence did much to shut down Minnesota’s speedy Krissy Wendell-Natalie Darwitz-Kelly Stephens line, though Wendell did manage to hit her fair share of the pipes for the evening.
“You have to respect their speed,” Bredin said. “We did a good job playing them tight, and our backchecking and the goaltender were great — it was the whole commitment by everyone.”
The biggest negative in Dartmouth’s game was the penalty kill. Minnesota was 3-for-3 on the power play and used two goals on the man advantage to get back in the game in the second period. Wendell added a third goal that cut a 5-2 deficit to 5-3.
Oberting confessed her team has work to do on the penalty kill. On the first Minnesota goal Carly Haggard and goaltender Amy Ferguson miscommunicated and let the Gophers’ walk in for a goal, and then on the second Minnesota goal, Gopher La Toya Clarke was left untouched on the doorstep for a finish off a pass from sophomore Noelle Sutton.
“Definitely we’re going to have go back to the drawing board,” Piper said. “On one of the kills I lost the draw clean. I’ll take responsibility for that goal. But [I’m pleased] to play five-and-five and not give up goals.”
Dartmouth’s third line all but iced the game in the third period. Just 2:25 in the third period, Krista Dormfried’s shot trickled past Horak, who made the initial stop but couldn’t handle the Dartmouth pressure.
“No matter who we come up against, we have four solid lines and everyone contributes,” Piper said. “Other top teams, as a whole team, they’re not complete.”
The only eventful moment of the third period for Dartmouth may be one that comes back to haunt it. After a collision Walton went hard into the boards leg-first and needed to be carried off the ice. She was taken to the hospital after the game and may have sustained a fracture.
“It’s scary to think what Walton’s injury is,” Oberting said. “It’ll be hard if she’s gone.”
While Dartmouth is idle for another eight days, Minnesota will have to regroup quickly. Its next game is at New Hampshire, and the start time was 2 p.m. the next day following a 6 p.m. game.
“It’s a disadvantage, so we’re going to have to find a way to regroup and battle hard tomorrow,” said Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson.