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Lee Stempniak '05 Soaks Up the Pressure
Lee Stempniak ’05
Lee Stempniak ’05

Expectations abound for senior men's hockey player Lee Stempniak. He was drafted by the NHL's St. Louis Blues in 2003, received the Class of 1948 Scholar-Athlete Award as a junior, was selected as a preseason All America this fall by Inside College Hockey, and was one of The Hockey News' four favorites to win the 2005 Hobey Baker Award as the best Division I hockey player.

But for someone who is a self-proclaimed lover of pressure, Stempniak hasn't allowed the individual expectations to get into his head. His only goals this year are team related, as his Big Green was picked to win the ECAC Hockey League by the media and garnered a number-eleven ranking in a pair of preseason polls.

"We'd like to live up to these expectations," Stempniak says. "Everybody in our locker room thinks we can win the ECAC Hockey League championship, and that's really what we're setting our goal as now."

The '05 says he and his four senior teammates worked especially hard during the off season as they prepared for their final campaign with the Big Green. "This could be a year full of memories we never forget," Stempniak says. "Everybody's really upbeat and excited about that."

While the team is working toward a memorable 2004-05 season, Stempniak alone could be in for a remarkable senior year after posting 16 goals and 22 assists as a junior and being named Dartmouth's first All America first-team selection since 1989. For a player who remembers the tribulations of learning to skate at the age of four ("It was a lot harder than I thought it would be," he says), putting in time and working hard toward a goal is nothing new. Being drafted was one of those goals.

"It was a great honor for me. I did not expect to be drafted," says Stempniak. "I've always believed I could do it. I figured through hard work, things can happen. I've been on teams where we weren't the most talented team but we worked hard and won some games we shouldn't have."

As for being named to the Hobey Baker watch, he says he was somewhat scared by the premise: "I've never had expectations like this going into a season." Stempniak deflects credit to teammates, including Nate Szymanski '05, Hugh Jessiman '06, and Mike Ouellette '06, because they do the little things, like make good passes, to help him compile noticeable numbers.

And while he's not one to intentionally make himself stand out, he doesn't mind attention and pressure. "To me, there's nothing more exciting than playing in a big game," Stempniak says. "I'd rather play in that clutch game and try to be a clutch performer. That's what I thrive on."

Women's Hockey Roster Is Small but Select

For a college hockey game, coaches are allowed to dress up to 18 skaters and three goalies. With the smallest Dartmouth women's hockey roster since 1996-97, head coach Mark Hudak will be able to dress a maximum of 15 skaters and two goalies at any given time this winter.

Coach Mark Hudak
Coach Mark Hudak

The Big Green's lines and strategies might be manipulated in many ways this season to accommodate the small numbers as Dartmouth looks to make its fourth NCAA Frozen Four in five seasons. Hudak says a lot of players could be moving between positions, and the offensive strategy could revolve around either stacking a line with offensive firepower or spreading it out.

"We certainly have some powerful offensive players," Hudak says, "and they're going to be able to contribute more offensively." Dartmouth has only ten forwards, enough for only three full lines, but the Big Green returns four junior forwards in Gillian Apps, Tiffany Hagge, Cherie Piper, and Katie Weatherston, who each averaged around 1.5 points per game a year ago. The foursome combined for 82 goals and 84 assists despite only Hagge playing a full 34-game schedule. Weatherston missed time to play for the Canadian U-22 team, and Apps and Piper missed a third of the season while playing for Canada's national team.

Hudak says all the Big Green players will be able to contribute, and the defensive players are quite capable of shutting down opponents.

With so few players, Hudak says it is important the team's three first-years-Amy Cobb, Nicole Ruta, and Carrie Thompson-become acclimated to the college game as soon as possible since they'll be used in many key situations during the season.

Fatigue could become a factor during the season, so Hudak says the Big Green players have to be smart about when they pick their moment to make an offensive push. "We're going to need to be opportunistic," he says.

Despite the small numbers, Hudak is still optimistic about the season, and he's confident everyone will play an important role. "The good thing about it is players want to be relied upon, they want to contribute," he says. "Everybody is going to have the opportunity to contribute this year, whether it's offensively or defensively, and I think they all understand that."

Holiday Tournaments Offer Cultural Experience

Head women's basketball coach Chris Wielgus recalls driving past the Green one afternoon during the Blue Sky Restaurant Classic in December 2001. "I looked and I saw all these kids in the snow ... and I wondered, who the heck are these people?" Wielgus says. "And it's Southern Mississippi, and they are doing snow angels and throwing snow up."

Fatima Kamara ’07
Fatima Kamara ’07

The University of Southern Mississippi team was in town for the annual tournament, and many of its players had never experienced snow. Wielgus went home and gathered sleds from neighbors so the players could slide at the Hanover Country Club.

Head men's hockey coach Bob Gaudet says one of the reasons his team continues to host the Ledyard Classic each December is because it's held at Thompson Arena, not in a professional building, like many holiday tournaments, and it showcases the College to opposing teams.

For each of Dartmouth's holiday tournaments, the opposing teams stay at the Hanover Inn, which puts them in the middle of Hanover and allows them to wander around town.

Wielgus says her team's tournament began as a way to expose the Upper Valley to "really good basketball," which it has done by attracting such teams as Clemson, Kentucky, Rutgers, Vanderbilt, and Wisconsin. One result of the tournament has been to give opposing players a New England cultural experience.

Gaudet has a similar outlook. "I think it's a really big boost for us on a national level to have some of these teams come in and actually see our facility, see our campus, and go back and have a different appreciation for what we're about," he says.

The tradition continues this year when the women's basketball team hosts Richmond, DePaul, and Valparaiso. The Big Green men's hockey team hosts Bowling Green, Vermont, and Providence.

By Josh Kessler

Scoreboard

(as of 12/13/04)

Men's Hockey

4-5-1, 3-3 ECACHL

Women's Hockey

11-1, 6-0 ECACHL

Men's Basketball

3-3, 0-0 Ivy

Women's Basketball

2-3, 0-0 Ivy 

Men's Swim & Dive

0-4, 0-4 EISL

Women's Swim & Dive

0-4, 0-4 Ivy

Men's Squash

0-1, 0-1 Ivy

Women's Squash

0-1, 0-1 Ivy 

Men's Tennis 

2-1, 0-0 Ivy

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Last Updated: 5/30/08