Record Crowd Fills Bright for W. Hockey

Not even a snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow on the Boston area could prevent the Harvard women’s hockey team from drawing a record home crowd of 1,741 to the Bright Hockey Center for its 2-1 win over Dartmouth on Friday night.

The snow had abated a few hours before the game began, but it was still tough for out-of-town fans to arrive at what Bob Ryan had called “The Best Show in Town.” Harvard coach Katey Stone said she had received several calls asking whether the game would be cancelled. Afterwards she was left wondering what might have been.

“If it weren’t for that snowstorm, we might have sold out, and it was a tough night for little kids to come out on the road,” she said.

An estimated 400 students still made the trip across the river and the band showed up in full force.

“There’s no question in my mind, that band and students helped us win that game,” Stone said. “We thank them a lot and we hope they come back.”

“It was a great crowd—tons of support, tons of energy,” said captain Jennifer Botterill. “We were thrilled.”

As soon as the puck was dropped the fans were into the game as Dartmouth, with its speed and strength, made it clear it was going to put up a fight. The student section was packed, and Harvard supporters lined the glass with painted stomachs.

“The greatest thing about women’s hockey is its open seating,” Stone said. “You can go wherever you want. You can hang on the glass, you can paint your stomachs and not be thrown out of the game. We need those kind of fans.”

Stone said her one regret was that Harvard could not extend its one-goal lead after the first period. The Crimson certainly had its chances.

“You kind of wanted to score more goals so people could go crazy and the crowd could erupt,” she said.

Yet the seven Harvard penalty kills and the explosive hits on both sides of the ice gave plenty of opportunity for fans to stay in the game.

By contrast, the Crimson drew 716 fans the following afternoon for a 9-1 win over Vermont with minimal student support. The attendance—its second-largest of the year—was fueled largely by younger hockey players who came to Harvard for National Girls and Women in Sports Day festivities.

In a nice gesture, the team hosted an autograph session after the game. Nearly every girl in attendance made their way into the autograph line, which at its peak stretched from the concessions stand to bench—about a third of the rink’s perimeter.

Stone hopes that this week’s attendance will only be the beginning, pitching Tuesday’s Beanpot final, next weekend’s senior weekend with Princeton and Yale and the continuation of the Harvard-Brown rivalry in two and a half weeks.

“The momentum’s building,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to get some real crowds in here.”

A Harvard Hockey Fairy Tale

Ten-year old Lindsey MacDonald entered the Bright Hockey Center like any other fan on Saturday afternoon, but before she left, she was the new crowd sensation.

MacDonald ignited the Harvard-Vermont fans during a first intermission promotion when she propelled a puck from center ice into an eight-inch hole at the goal line and won two tickets to Tuesday’s Women’s Beanpot final.

The fan contest has drawn criticism in the past for its difficulty. Former Crimson men’s hockey columnist Mike Volonnino ’01 once called it “utterly ridiculous” and “near impossible.” Little did he know that a female squirt would one day meet the challenge.

It appeared the deck was stacked against MacDonald as she took her position on the rug at center ice and awkwardly grasped an oversized hockey stick. Any skeptic had their doubts confirmed when her first of three shots sailed wide left of the net.

But little did the crowd know, Harvard hockey flowed deep in her veins. Her father Bill MacDonald was a long-time assistant coach with the Harvard women’s hockey before Stone took over the program in 1994.

Now the Director of the Natick Comets’ girl’s hockey program, the elder MacDonald had brought the Comets to the Harvard game to meet some potential role models. His daughter became one herself far sooner than he ever imagined.

The younger MacDonald found success by rotating her body to compensate for the error of her first shot.

“I was kind of facing that direction, so I kind of turned that way,” said MacDonald, reliving the moment with appropriate hand motions.

When she first attempted her second shot, she whiffed on the puck. The moment was reminiscent of Friday’s game, when freshman Julie Chu whiffed on an odd-man rush but recovered in time to set up linemate Lauren McAuliffe for a game-tying goal. MacDonald bounced back in a fashion that would have made Chu proud.

On her second attempt of her second shot, she struck the puck squarely. MacDonald said at that moment, she knew she would be a winner. The crowd roared as the puck crossed the narrow gap and hit the back of the net.

MacDonald missed the third shot—a sweatshirt was at stake—but it was of no matter. It was already the best moment of her three-year hockey career, and she was the talk of the town.

Bulletin Board Material

If anyone thought Harvard captain Angela Ruggiero looked more excited than usual when she beat Dartmouth goaltender Amy Ferguson for the eventual game-winner on Friday, there was a reason.

Ruggiero had not forgotten a three-year old insult from Ferguson following Harvard’s 3-2 overtime defeat in the 2000 ECAC semifinals.

The comment alluded to a powerful Ruggiero slapshot from the blue line, which Ferguson snatched out of the air to save Dartmouth’s season.

“I knew she was going high glove on me,” said Ferguson, who was a freshman at the time. “She’s the kind of player that needs to beat you with a pretty goal.”

So, three years later, Ruggiero beat her high blocker.

“I was happy to score on the upper corner,” she said.

Ruggiero could not recall the exact words of Ferguson’s quote, but the intent was not forgotten. Ferguson had implied that Ruggiero had given flashiness a higher priority than winning the game—which has never been the case.

The comment was particularly stinging because Dartmouth went on to earn a controversial spot in the national tournament over Harvard, and Ruggiero did not play another collegiate game for over two years due U.S. national commitments. When Harvard beat Dartmouth 9-2 in the first weekend of this season, Ruggiero acknowledged that the 2000 defeat was still weighing on her mind.

Karma Bites Back

It turns out that Dartmouth coach Judy Oberting has no one to blame but herself for Ferguson’s bulletin-board material from three years ago.

Oberting, in a playful charade, was the so-called reporter who elicited the insult from Ferguson at the postgame press conference.

The media that showed up to cover the ECAC semifinals at Brown’s Meehan Auditorium was largely a Harvard-focused contingent. So when the three Dartmouth players had little to say other than negative thoughts about Harvard—we proved we’re a better team, we have a better goalie, they’re a one-line team—the journalists had little more to ask, and an uncomfortable silence followed.

Oberting, who had been waiting her turn in back, suddenly stepped up and facetiously declared she was a reporter from the Valley News—a northern New England paper that often covers Dartmouth athletics. She proceeded to ask Ferguson how she ever managed to save Ruggiero’s shot.

Little did Oberting know, Ferguson’s response would not soon be forgotten.

Only Round Two

Dartmouth and Harvard don’t have another scheduled game this season, but another meeting or two in the ECAC tournament or NCAA championship is highly probable.

The two teams are on a collision course for the ECAC championship at Brown on March 16. If the NCAA seedings ultimately coincide with the team’s current rankings, the two teams could meet a fourth time in the national semifinals at Minnesota-Duluth on March 21.

With that in mind, Oberting looked at Friday’s 2-1 defeat as progress.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “We lost 9-2 last time, you know.”

“I don’t think they should be psyched to see us in the end,” she added.

—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at remer@fas.harvard.edu.