In a typical Harvard-Dartmouth grudge match featuring 17 penalties, the defenses on both sides were so solid that one first-period power-play goal by the Crimson’s Angela Ruggiero proved to be the difference in a 2-1 Harvard win.
The goal came on a two-man advantage 13:43 into the period. As Dartmouth’s Cherie Piper valiantly dived to stuff a shot from Jennifer Botterill, the puck bounced right to Ruggiero in the high slot. With a clear view of the net, she picked her spot and buried the puck in the corner past Dartmouth goaltender Amy Ferguson.
It was a particularly satisfying goal for Ruggiero, who recalled that Ferguson had once called her “the kind of player who needs to beat you with a pretty goal” and that she knew she was going to go high glove, referring to a save in Dartmouth’s 3-2 overtime win over Harvard in the 2000 ECAC semifinals.
“I was happy to score on the upper corner,” Ruggiero said. “But I didn’t think it’d go on to be the game winner because of the offense we were generating.”
The two defenses would hold for the game despite 15 more penalties, and the Crimson emerged with its 15th straight win in front of a crowd of 1,741 — its best ever.
“It was just a typical Harvard-Dartmouth game,” Dartmouth coach Judy Oberting said. “It was a tough, physical, fast-paced game.”
Dartmouth’s best moments were the first four minutes, when the Big Green barely let the Crimson touch the puck. It took Dartmouth scoring the game’s first goal at the 3:44 mark for the Crimson to get into the game. Piper skated circles around the Harvard defense and set up Apps for a deflection in front for the 1-0 lead.
But the Crimson answered right away, as has been typical this season. A minute and a half later, freshman Julie Chu created a 3-on-1, whiffed on a shot to pull Ferguson out of the net, retrieved the puck and set up linemate Lauren McAuliffe for the finish on the wide open net to tie the game at one.
“The thing that impresses me most is that we answered right away,” Stone said.
The referees called the game loose for most of the first period, before finally calling two penalties in succession on Dartmouth, leading to the Ruggiero goal. The sudden addition of officiating didn’t cause either team to let down on the physical play. The referee’s whistles were busy. Each team would get another 5-on-3 for the game.
“I think the ref didn’t expect it to be physical, but when these two teams get together it’s always physical,” Ruggiero said.
From then on, the game was a penalty kill competition. And Harvard allowed but a handful of opportunities in killing eight Dartmouth penalties. At times Dartmouth’s power play looked like a Crimson power play. The Big Green only occasionally got the puck into the Harvard zone on its power play, and when it did, it couldn’t managed much more than shots from the point — all of which Ruddock handled cleanly.
“Everyone played great defensively including our forwards who backchecked,” Ruggiero said. “We couldn’t be happier tonight as far as defense goes.”
Harvard had several chances of its own to go up by two goals. Ruggiero and Chu set up Botterill from point-blank range on the second Harvard 5-on-3, but the Crimson could not finish.
Ferguson’s performance was outstanding with 35 saves.
“They were playing [the 5-on-3] really aggressive,” Ruggiero said. “We’re used to teams playing it more passive zone, they were coming after us in the corners. We had two really good chances and didn’t capitalize.”
Botterill appeared to get a third Harvard goal in the third period, but it was called back because the referee ruled it was set up by a hand pass. Banfield sent the puck across the crease on a tough-angle setup by Chu later in the period as well.
In the final three minutes, Dartmouth never could give itself chances to tie the game because Danielle Grundy and Piper ended up in the box.
With Ferguson pulled in the final 18 seconds, Dartmouth had a faceoff in the Harvard zone, but Botterill won it and sent the puck back to Ruggiero, who took it to the corner and ran out the clock.
In the long run, though, this will most likely not be the last Harvard-Dartmouth meeting. The two teams are on a collision course for the ECAC and NCAA tournaments.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Oberting said. “We lost 9-2 last time, we lost tonight, but I don’t think they should be psyched to see us in the end.”