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SCHENECTADY, N.Y.—The NCAA announced the four participants in the 2004 women’s hockey Frozen Four last night, and there was little surprise in the selections. No. 1 Minnesota will face No. 4 Dartmouth next weekend, while No. 2 Harvard squares off once again with No. 3 St. Lawrence.
Everything turned out exactly the way former Crimson editor David R. DeRemer ’03 predicted in his number-crunching on U.S. College Hockey Online (USCHO).
While coaches were hopeful of their teams’ chances, not all were confident in the selections system.
“There is that subjectivity in there and they do look at the availability of players and I just don’t know what’s going to happen with that,” said Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak following his team’s 4-2 loss to St. Lawrence on Saturday night. “I think if we had won today we would have put ourselves in a great position. Now, we have to play a bit of a waiting game.”
The wait was a stressful one for Hudak and the Big Green because the team will be without sophomores Gillian Apps and Cherie Piper, both of whom will leave to train with the Canadian National Team this weekend.
“It’s not so much what we want to adjust as much as what we have to adjust,” Hudak said in reference to the upcoming Frozen Four. “We’re going to lose two good players. But we’ll have to change up our lines and we’ll probably tweak our forecheck again and certainly put out some new power plays.”
Because of a clause in the tournament’s handbook regarding player availability come time for tournament play and team selection, Dartmouth wasn’t the only team concerned about it’s Frozen Four chances.
“Obviously it’s in the back of my mind a bit,” St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan said during the same press conference. “I think to get caught up in what could and couldn’t be beyond—it’s just such a distraction, it’s tough. “Whatever happens after [we play], happens.”
Flanagan will be without star forward Gina Kingsbury, who will join Piper and Apps to train for the Canadian National Team.
A question concerning Kingsbury’s decision to leave sparked an emotional response from player and coach alike.
“I’m flying out tonight at 7:15…I don’t really have much more to comment—I wish I could stay,” a tearful Kingsbury said.
“Gina’s heart is at St. Lawrence and she’s been unbelievable for four years,” Flanagan said. “I just think it’s so damn unfortunate that an athlete has to choose between her school and her country. It’s just not fair. She’s going to be with us, we’re going to be with her, but it’s just not fair.
“I’m going to start crying again,” Kingsbury remarked, unable to hold back the tears.
“Me too,” answered Flanagan, patting his senior on the back in support. “It’s not fair to ask her, because she shouldn’t have to make a decision, and it’s just not fair.”
Fortunately for these two schools, their teams make the four-team tournament. Others on the bubble—Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin—were not as fortunate.
“Thank goodness, hopefully, the NCAA is going to expand to eight teams maybe down the road even more so that teams don’t have to have this anguish late in the year and they can just play because this is the most prestigious tournament in the country right now,” Flanagan said.
THE ROAD TO HARVARD
Dartmouth shot the lights out against St. Lawrence in the second semifinal game, but they couldn’t find the back of the net past Rachel Barrie often enough to pull off a victory, losing 4-2 to the Saints.
Barrie made 40 saves in the win, including a number of spectacular stops. At one point in the second period, Barrie had to stretch out on her back to cover up the puck on an unbelievable acrobatic save.
After play stopped for a TV timeout, Barrie skated to the Saints bench to stretch out her quad and calve muscles because of the way her body flexed in order to make the save.
“I don’t like Rachel Barrie anymore!” joked Hudak. “Rachel’s just a heck of a goalie…[she] was phenomenal, and she deserves to be the ECAC goalie of the year—and she is.”
The Big Green threw everything it had at Barrie, but just couldn’t figure her out.
“She has a good solid team in front of her, and she’s tricky,” said Dartmouth sophomore Gillian Apps. “She catches a different way from most goalies, so you have to change the way you shoot at her. She catches with her right hand, most goalies catch with their left. It’s just a tricky kind of way to play a goalie.”
On the offensive end, St. Lawrence converted on three of its first four power plays, dominating the Big Green on special teams.
“A couple of those goals were just bang-bang plays,” Flanagan said. “That’s positioning. I give our kids a lot of credit for being there. There was nothing the goalie could do on at least two of them.”
The performance demonstrated the long way the Saints have come since the beginning of the season when it struggled on special teams to making the effort look easy against the No. 3 team in the nation.
“When you’re struggling, the important thing is to struggle through it,” said St. Lawrence captain Rickie-Lee Doyle. “In a weekend like this, you just trust in your teammates and hope everyone comes prepared.”
“I thought the game would come down to mistakes, and St. Lawrence did a great job of capitalizing on that,” Hudak said. “Penalties are mistakes—for us, not the officials.”
WHAT’S COOLER THAN BEING COOL
At the very beginning of the post-championship game press conference, Harvard coach Katey Stone sat dripping wet besides co-captain Lauren McAuliffe.
“I can’t wait to get out of here. I’m freezing…I’m soaked—but it’s for a good cause,” she said.
That’s because Stone was attacked with water bottles by members of Harvard’s team during the post-game celebrations..
“I tried to stop them,” McAuliffe said with a grin.
In a prerequisite and perhaps forerunner to the upcoming Patty Kazmaier Award announcement on March 27, the eve of the NCAA women’s hockey national championship, co-captain Angela Ruggiero was named the 2003-2004 ECAC Player of the Year Friday night before the start of the tournament’s final four. Ruggiero joined Corriero on the league’s first team. Chu represented the Crimson on the second team.
Following Harvard’s 6-1 rout over St. Lawrence in the ECAC Championship game, Ruggiero was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. She also joined four teammates—McAuliffe, junior Nicole Corriero, and sophomores Julie Chu and Jennifer Skinner—in sweeping every skating position on the ECAC JP Morgan Chase All-Tournament team—a clear reflection of Harvard’s dominance in the ECAC postseason.
Brown’s Katie Germain was the only non-Harvard player named to the team, winning at the goalie position for her amazing 41 goal losing effort against the Crimson in Harvard’s 2-1 double-overtime semifinal victory over the Bears.
—Staff writer John R. Hein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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