On the strength of its second weekend sweep in a row--a 4-1 drubbing of Bowdoin and a 7-0 victory over Colby--the Harvard women's hockey team will cruise into its all-important regular season finale this Wednesday against Dartmouth riding a wave of momentum.
The Crimson will face the Big Green hoping to clinch the fourth and final berth in the upcoming Ivy League tournament and breath new life into a season that has had more than a few ups and downs.
With its aggressive and enthusiastic efforts at Bright Center against both Bowdoin (now 8-5) on Saturday and Colby (now 8-11) on Sunday, the Crimson (11-9-1) seemed to be saying: "Good-bye Maine, bring on New Hampshire." The team in Green from Hanover, to be specific.
"We're about as ready as we can be for Dartmouth," Harvard Coach John Dooley said Sunday. "We really want to get some enthusiasm going about the showdown on Wednesday."
The Crimson this weekend gave its fans every reason to want to turn out for the Dartmouth game, its dual victories signaling that last Thursday's flat performance (and loss) to a weaker UConn team was but a distant, forgotten dream.
"We've blocked that out of our memories," Harvard Co-Captain Genie Simmons said.
And how. The Crimson trailed only once the entire weekend, when Bowdoin's Jennifer Izard beat Harvard's Jennifer White early in the first period Saturday. It was the only goal that the freshman netminder allowed, in either game.
White, named last week's Ivy Player of the Week for her efforts in a crucial Crimson victory over Cornell, stopped 26 of the 27 Polar Bear shots directed her way, and all 20 from the sticks of the White Mules of Colby.
It was her first career shutout.
"We were awesome today, and I just did the job," White modestly said of her effort. She did admit, however, to being "really psyched about it."
Throughout the year. Harvard has had to rely on White and her 2.85 goals-against average (.885 save percentage) to compensate for occasional defensive lapses and to keep the team in games by bearing the brunt of swarming enemy offenses. Consequently, White has had plenty of tough 2-1 and 3-1 losses, and many near-shutouts spoiled in the closing minutes.
But not on Sunday. And as her young defensive corps matures around her, the odds are that it won't be the freshman's last shutout at Harvard.
The Crimson scoring punch this weekend came from familiar but varied sources. Simmons (13 goals, 10 assists, 23 points) continued to be very productive from the second line, chipping in the final Harvard tally against Bowdoin and two more in the second period Sunday to put the Crimson a comfortable five goals up.
Linemate Christine Dooley scored Harvard's first goal against Colby. And Crimson Co-Captain Julie Sasner represented the defense with Harvard's first goal against Bowdoin.
But the first line did the largest share of the Crimson damage, primarily in the person of forward Brita Lind (13-13-26). Karen Carney (13-15-28) contributed a goal-and-two-assist effort against Bowdoin, and team-points leader Johanna Neilson (13-18-31) registered a score and an assist on the weekend. But the five-point, hat trick performance of Lind on Sunday overshadowed them all.
Dooley referred Saturday to the consistent forward in terms that underlined her dangerous scoring ability, calling the sophomore his "spark plug," and describing her play as "dynamite."
Lind, however, was less willing to assume a central role in the recent Crimson success: "We're rolling as a team. We've got the momentum, and I'm just going along with it."
The well-executed, confident brand of hockey that Harvard demonstrated in this weekend's Maine invasion, as well as last weekend's New York sweep of RIT and Cornell, will stand the icewomen in good stead if they can carry that momentum into Wednesday's war with the Big Green.
Good hockey was precisely the ingredient missing when Harvard traveled to Hanover for its first post-Christmas contest and lost to Dartmouth, 3-1.
But considering the quality of recent Crimson play, that early season loss may serve as additional psyche-up material for the streaking icewomen. While both teams have identical 3-5-1 Ivy records, the Crimson will enjoy the home-ice advantage.
Jean Guth contributed to the reporting of this article.