Women's Hockey Advances to ECAC Final Four

The scenario was something like this - imagine throwing a big, birthday bash and forgetting to invite the featured guest.

The quarterfinal round for the ECAC women's hockey championship is single elimination. That means no second chances, regardless of where the tournament's final four is being played.

With the semi-final and championship scheduled at Dartmouth's Thompson Arena on March 17-18, the last thing the Big Green wanted to do was suffer a slip-up against Niagara. And just to complicate things, the pressure of final exams and research papers was thrown into the mix.

Give the Dartmouth women's hockey players an "A" for their performance on March 10.

With No. 8 Niagara coming to town (the Purple Eagles were one of three teams to defeat Dartmouth during the regular season), the Big Green put together a 3-1 victory, advancing to the semi-final tilt against Brown. The other matchup will feature St. Lawrence and Harvard as the tournament's top four seeds all prevailed.

"This was pretty much do or die, and you never know what's going to happen," said Dartmouth head coach Judy Oberting, whose Big Green has held down the top spot in the two national collegiate polls all during the regular season. "A lot of people told us we had the toughest draw in the first round as the No. 1 seed having to play Niagara with their goaltender and their talent."

A pair of juniors, Kristin King (Piqua, Ohio) and Correne Bredin (Warburg, Alta.) gave Dartmouth a 2-0 lead after the first period. Niagara got one back in the third before sophomore Carly Haggard (Port Alberni, B.C.) provided some insurance with about eight minutes remaining. That boosted the Big Green's overall record to a gaudy 24-3-1, along with the regular season Ivy and ECAC championships.

"Next week is going to be unbelievable," said Haggard. "We're so psyched to play after a big win like this. It's definitely one of the biggest wins we've had in a long time."

When Dartmouth skates on the Thompson ice on March 17, the hockey-hungry Hanover area will have plenty to cheer about. "We're happy to be a part of it," added Oberting. "This game was the pressure game. Having the tournament here, we obviously really wanted to be a part of that. We wanted to play two more games this weekend in order to get ready for the following weekend."

Oberting was referring to the prospect of an invitation to the inaugural NCAA Women's Hockey Championship. The University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena will host the four-team event on March 23-25, and the selections will be announced on Sunday, March 18, beginning at 8 p.m.