Look out Brown, here comes the Harvard women's ice hockey team.
Last night before 200 verbal fans at Bright Center, the icewomen demolished a Dartmouth squad, 4-1, that came into Cambridge hoping to steal the fourth and last Ivy League playoff spot from the Crimson.
No such luck.
With a combination of never-say-die offense, agressive defense, and the confident goaltending of Jennifer White, Harvard (12-9-1 overall, 4-5-1 Ivy) overwhelmed the Big Green (9-9-1, 3-6-1) with four unanswered goals and the complete team game.
"We took them by storm," Crimson Co-Captain Genie Simmons said.
The Harvard storm earned the team a trip to Providence this Saturday to face Ancient Eight regular season champ Brown in the first round of the Ivy tournament.
"This team is doing just what you want a team to do, peak for the end of the season," Crimson Coach John Dooley said. "And we haven't really even peaked yet. Hopefully, this weekend we will."
The Crimson victory in its regular season finale was the high point of a strong late-season finish. Harvard is 5-1 over its last six contests, including a crucial Ivy victory over second-place Cornell last weekend. That win set the icewomen up for last night's showdown with Dartmouth.
"I told this team, that with the way we've played the last two weekends, I'd sure hate to be playing us," Dooley said.
Harvard's enthusiasm, and a little early nervousness, were evident from the opening face-off. The first Dartmouth shot hit the post, and the second one crossed the goal line.
But when Crimson sparkplug Brita Lind single-handedly dug the puck away from two Dartmouth defenders on the boards, and then blew a backhand past Big Green netminder Nicki Demakis, Harvard's determination began to pay off.
"When they score, it's not time to think about it," White said, "it's time to go out and do the job."
And faced with the choice of the starting a new season Saturday, with a chance at the ECAC tournament, or staying home and hitting the books, the Crimson got the job done.
Christine Burns picked up three penalties on the evening (she leads the team with 44 minutes in the sin bin), but she also picked up the game-winner by knocking in Crimson Co-Captain Julie Sasner's rebound midway through the second period. It appeared that one referee had whistled the play dead, thinking that Demakis had covered the puck. But she hadn't, and the goal stood. Harvard 2, Dartmouth 1.
The Crimson never looked back.
Lind's evolving offensive arsenal again paid dividends when she set up Lisi Bailliere for another second stanza tally. That goal set off a wave of Crimson cheering and hugging. The team sensed that their revenge over Dartmouth--3-1 victors over the icewomen in early January--was in the bag.
Sasner, who last year set a Harvard scoring record with 23 goals but has struggled offensively this season, put the knot in the bag late in the third period with a frightening blast that hit the Dartmouth goalie and the crossbar before settling into the net.
"Everyone played a super game, everyone made contributions," an excited Dooley said of the victory. "We can beat Brown if we just play like we did today."
The Crimson lost two tough contests to the Pandas during the regular season, losing 3-2 in overtime at Bright, and falling 3-1 in Providence.
But Harvard is now showing consistent signs of the aggressive and confident play that it will take to beat the experienced Brown squad. And precisely because of those earlier disappointments, the Crimson is gunning for the Pandas.
Simmons described the team's post-victory mood as, "extremely psyched, especially now that we have a chance at Brown."