Harvard-Dartmouth has been among the premier matchups in Eastern women’s college hockey. For the better part of four seasons, it has been the ECAC’s biggest draw.
“It’s just a great rivalry,” said Harvard captain Jennifer Botterill, the nation’s leading scorer. “They’ve been one of our best competitors over the years. Every time we meet it’s an intense matchup, and it’s bound to be a great hockey game.”
Dartmouth’s ECAC playoff victories over Harvard in 2000 and 2001 each drew over 2,400 fans to lead the league attendance lists for those seasons. The Harvard-Dartmouth game at Bright about two years ago drew 1,066—the largest home crowd Harvard’s drawn in the past four seasons.
Though the Crimson is No. 1 in the polls, its home fan support isn’t anywhere close to No. 1—it wasn’t even in the top 10 at midseason. No. 3 Minnesota is averaging over 1,800, while North Dakota and No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth have flirted with the 1,000 mark. The paltry Harvard fan support has failed to crack the upper half of the Ivies with Dartmouth, Brown and Princeton all posting better numbers.
Empty seats haven’t had an adverse affect on Harvard’s home results—no Crimson opponent has lost by fewer than four goals at Bright this year. Yet that doesn’t mean greater attendance would not be appreciated.
“Whether we have a ton of fans or not, we just try to play our game,” said Harvard freshman Julie Chu. “But it’s definitely an advantage to have that extra crowd support there.”
Dartmouth is only the second nationally-ranked women’s hockey team to come to the Bright Center this year. The Big Green has won five straight, including a 6-3 win over Minnesota—the team that dealt Harvard its only defeat. There won’t be two hotter teams on the ice all season.
“It’s great entertainment,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “You get away from the sort of clutch-and-grab, bang-around hockey. It’s fast paced. It’s a great matchup. We’re really looking forward to it.”
While women’s hockey’s attendance figures have grown as the sport achieved NCAA status two seasons ago, there’s still a lot of room for growth.
“It’ll be great for people to come out and support women’s hockey, because I think when people haven’t been exposed to it, they don’t realize the entertainment value of it,” Botterill said.
Tomorrow’s Harvard-Dartmouth game will feature some of the greatest talent worldwide in women’s college hockey. Between the two teams, there are four Olympians, three Patty Kazmaier candidates and legions of national Under-22 players.
Dartmouth has been the No. 1 nemesis for the Harvard seniors, having knocked the Crimson out of the ECAC tournament each of the past three years. During those seasons, Harvard posted a 2-8 record against the Big Green.
Of the seven defeats the Crimson has suffered with captain Angela Ruggiero in the lineup, three of them were against Dartmouth—all in the 1999-2000 season, a landmark year in the rivalry.
Playing the underdog role against Harvard is nothing new for Dartmouth coach Judy Oberting.