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The stage is set for a Cinderella run, but Harvard may be the victim en route to Dartmouth's fairy tale ending.
The No. 2 Harvard women's hockey team (21-4-3, 17-4-3 ECAC) rolled to an easy 7-3 victory over St. Lawrence (18-15-1, 11-12-1) last Saturday in the ECAC quarterfinals.
That's the good news.
Here's the bad news.
The Crimson's road to a second straight National Championship runs through Dartmouth.
Harvard hasn't beaten the No. 6 Big Green (19-10-0, 17-7-0) all season, and has lost twice.
In Harvard's home opener, Dartmouth ended the Crimson's 33-game winning streak with a 5-4 OT victory, which was the same night the 1999 AWCHA national championship banner was raised to the rafters.
The Big Green's second win, a 5-3 trouncing in mid-February, was a wake-up call for the Crimson before the Beanpot finals.
Harvard responded with a gutsy 4-3 OT victory over Northeastern.
Another loss to the Big Green, however, and the Crimson won't be answering another wake-up call until next fall.
If Harvard can survive Dartmouth's challenge next Saturday in the ECAC semifinals, the Crimson will face the winner of the Northeastern-Brown showdown.
No. 1 Brown (22-3-3, 19-2-3) easily dealt with Niagara (17-13-3, 10-12-2), shutting it out 5-0.
Meanwhile, No. 5 Northeastern (22-8-3, 15-6-3) sent No. 7 New Hampshire (24-10-0, 17-7-0) packing with 4-3 win.
Here is a closer look at the ECAC quarter-finals:
Dartmouth 1, Providence 0 (OT2)
It was a goaltending dual Dominic Hasek and Curtis Joseph would be proud to call their own.
Providence goaltender Sara DeCosta stopped 62 shots in a losing effort as Dartmouth finally finished off the Friars' playoff hopes with a dramatic 1-0 victory in double overtime.
Dartmouth's Carly Haggard tipped a slapshot from Melissa Dolan over DeCosta 5:24 into the second overtime period to lift the Big Green to victory.
A gold-medalist with the 1998 US Olympic team, DeCosta nearly stole a win for the Friars.
Facing a career high 63 shots, DeCosta made a strong bid for consideration as the top goalie in the ECAC over Brown netminder Ali Brewer.
Not to be outshined, however, Big Green freshman Amy Ferguson turned aside 30 shots for the shutout.
Dartmouth dominated early in the game, outshooting Providence 24-4 in the first period before the Friars found their legs.
The Big Green advance to face the Crimson this coming Saturday at Brown.
Brown 5, Niagara 0
There was no question who was the better team on the ice last Saturday at Brown's Meehan Auditorium.
Brown outshot Niagara 40-13 on route to a convincing 5-0 victory that extended the Bears' winning streak to six games.
Despite the lopsided score, Niagara netminder Crystal Foster kept the game close until midway thorugh the third period.
Outshot 16-3 in the opening period, Foster refused to give the Bears' their allusive first goal, turning aside all 16 shots on goal.
It was not until 5:27 of the second period that Brown opened the scoring on a goal from Kristy Zamora.
Receiving a pass from Cassie Turner, Zamora danced around a pair of Niagara defenders and lifted the game-winner into the top right-hand corner all alone.
Foster held Brown to a narrow 2-0 lead until the midway through the third period when the Bears opened the flood-gates on a powerplay goal from Tamra Jones.
The Bears exploded for three goals in the third, outshooting Niagara 16-1 in the final period.
Ali Brewer recorded her seventh shutout of the season for the Bears, denying Niagara goals on several occassions in the second period where the Bears were outshot 9-8.
Brown will host Northeastern in the ECAC semi-finals this coming Saturday.
Northeastern 4, New Hampshire 3
Northeastern held on to an early lead to upset New Hampshire on the road with a 4-3 victory in the ECAC quarterfinals.
Just 1:50 into the game, Northeastern's Colleen Coen opened the scoring to give the Huskies an early 1-0 lead.
New Hampshire would tie the game 1-1 early in the second on a shorthanded goal from Melissa McKenzi, but Northeastern would respond.
Brooke White netted a pair 55 seconds apart late in the second period to give the Huskies a 3-1 lead from which they would not look back.
Northeastern goaltender Erika Silva weathered a storm late in the third period but would not relent as the Huskies held on for a narrow one-goal victory.
The Huskies will face top-ranked Brown in the ECAC semi-finals.
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