The last time the Harvard women's ice hockey team met Princeton, the Ivy League championship was on the line.
When the two squads square off in Princeton today, the Crimson will be looking to avenge last March's 6-2 loss. The now older and more experienced icewomen enter today's important Ivy match, which comes surprisingly early in the season, riding two convincing season-opening wins. Princeton, on the other hand, has struggled to achieve its identical 2-0 mark.
But Harvard's second-year Coach John Dooley is quick to point out that the Tigers are no pushovers.
"The fact that this game is so early in the season is to their advantage, because they've got a lot of depth and many more veterans than we do," he says. "What we'll need is super goaltending and a strong performance from everyone."
The Crimson will look to junior Cheryl Tate to stop the Tigers' offensive assault, led by Kelly O'Dell. O'Dell scored a hat trick off Tate in last year's title game, but the Crimson netminder remains confident
"In that game, we were pretty close after two periods, but then I got tired and was not moving so well because of a knee injury," Tate says. "But now things are different"
"This team is already further along than it was at the end of last year," Tate adds. "People are confident in what they're doing. And because of that, I think we'll be ready for Princeton."
"They'll be the biggest challenge for the Ivy title, but I really believe we're capable of beating them," she adds.
Tame Those Tigers
If the Crimson's early-season play is any indication, the icewomen could prove formidable opponents for not only Princeton but also some of the nation's top-ranked teams. In its first two victories over Dartmouth and UConn. Harvard took 61 shots on goal while limiting the opposition to only 15, and outscored its two opponents, 11-2.
Currently ranked sixth in the East (one notch below Princeton), the icewomen will get the chance to challenge several top-ranked squads soon Playing what Dooley calls the "team's most difficult schedule ever," the Crimson will meet the East's fourth-ranked team. Northeastern, Thursday, and will face the region's top-ranked team. New Hampshire, in early January.
"The tough schedule certainly isn't going to help now, but it will eventually," says Dooley, who guided the squad to a 15-6 record last year. Its first winning season ever "I think we've got a shot at the Easterns. If we make the tournament, we'll be facing those teams anyway, so playing them now will give us good experience"
But more importantly, the Crimson will face each Ivy team twice this year for the first time in the squad's six-year history. With the elimination of the Ivy tournament, which determined the league's champion in the past, final Ivy standings will now decide the title
"With only the final standings to count." Dooley says, "every Ivy game is a must. But I'd still have to say that the Princeton game is the game for the Ivies. The kids are sky high for it. I think we're really capable of doing it."
Dooley seems especially confident of his defense, consisting of Megan Berthold. Sue Newell, Amy Spalding and Deb Taft, who scored her first varsity goal in the squad's 8-1 win over UConn Thursday. The defense has been "very steady" offensively, as well as defensively, Dooley notes.
Though that extra offense should be extremely important in the squad's quest for the Ivy title, Dooley attaches the most importance to an intangible.
"The spirit of the team is that of a winner. The kids experienced success last year and they liked it," he says.