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The losers' locker room at the Bright Hockey Center was unusually happy last night. In their 1981-82 season opener a vastly improved Harvard women's hockey team dropped a 1-0 decision to Boston University. But it outplayed and outshot the Terriers throughout, not looking at all like last year's 7-12 squad.
The game was coach John Dooley's debut with the Crimson. "It was a hell of a game," he said afterward. "We did everything except put the puck away."
The shooting statistics certainly confirmed that. The Crimson pounded B.U. goalie Lisa Whitcomb with 40 shots, while Harvard's Cheryl Tate faced only 11 shots--none at all in the third period.
But it was one of those few Terrier shots that hit the twines, at 7:25 of the second period. With a player from each team in the penalty box, Terrier Jill Toney's rising wrist shot from the faceoff circle to Tate's right beat the Crimson netminder on her glover side.
The B.U. goal came at a lull in what was otherwise constant Crimson pressure. After a tentative start, Harvard kept most of the action in B.U.'s end. A mid-period Crimson power-play sputtered out, but the starting front line, centered by co-captain Firkins Reed, continued to press into the Terrier zone.
The Crimson line of Tania Huber centering for Dianne Hurley and freshman Liz Ward continued to apply the pressure. And especially impressive in the second and third periods was the line of center Alex Lightfoot and wingers Susan Newell and Jennifer White, which spent long stretches of time on the ice with the defensive pair of Amy Spalding and co-captain Julie Starr.
But the play of the defending Beanpot champs' goalie was the game's deciding factor. Sixteen saves in the final period, including a heart-breaking stop on Vicki Palmer's breakaway with 7:45 left, enabled the Terriers to up their record to 2-0.
Despite the loss, the squad's play pleased Dooley, who is the team's third coach in its four years of varsity status. No hockey novice, Dooley played varsity for B.U., and coached a high school team in Dedham, Mass., for 12 years. He comes to Harvard after 8 years at Massachusetts Bay Junior College, where his team twice ranked among the nation's top four junior colleges.
The squad he's inheriting finished last in the Ivy League last year. But last season's three leading scorers--co-captain Reed, a senior, right-wing Palmer, a junior, and sophomore left-wing Dianne Hurley--are all back. And Huber, a second-semester senior after taking two years off, set the team season record of 27 points three years ago as a junior.
The offense certainly has the personnel to improve on last year's average of only 2.64 goals per game. But shooting skills were a still-lingering problem last night. Last season's opposing goalies stopped 89.8 per cent of the Crimson's shots.
Most of last year's solid defense is back, including co-captain Starr, junior Spalding, and sophomores Megan Ber-thold and Debbie Taft. Goalie Tate is also a returnee, after posting an .866 save percentage as a freshman last year.
Because of his inexperience in women's hockey, Dooley is cautious about his players' chances: "Our goal right now is to be competitive in the Ivy League." But the overall outlook is optimistic. Says Starr, "We're ten times better than we were last year at this time."
The Crimson faces off next at the University of Connecticut on December 2.
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