The Crimson (12-3-1, 9-2-0 ECAC) saw its share of first place in the ECAC slip away Friday night with a 4-1 loss to No. 5 Dartmouth (11-3-1, 10-1-0) in Hanover, N.H.
“At this point, some of us are experiencing the physical and mental drain that comes with a rigorous schedule and a rigorous academic schedule,” Harvard co-captain Julie Chu said. “It will be nice for everyone to go home and get some rest but we also need to maintain [our rhythm]...so that we don’t come back from break starting almost at square one again.”
The two teams entered Friday’s game with similar resumes. Tied for first in the league with identical 9-1-0 league records, Harvard and Dartmouth were both in a position to knock the other from the top.
Interestingly, both teams were also fresh off a win over Providence and a 3-3 tie with No. 2 UNH, and have a handful of 2006 Olympians on the roster. Harvard’s Chu and junior defenseman Caitlin Cahow teamed with Dartmouth’s Sarah Parsons to win bronze for Team USA, while Crimson sophomore Sarah Vaillancourt won gold for Canada with Dartmouth’s Gillian Apps, Cherie Piper, and Katie Weatherston.
“We always stick to our own game, but you have to be a bit more cognizant of the tendencies and abilities of the players out there,” said Chu of her former teammates. “It’s always a bonus to be able to play my friends, though.”
The first period offered plenty of chances for Harvard, as three penalties were whistled against Dartmouth and the Crimson fired 15 shots on net. But Dartmouth goalie Carli Clemis blocked all 15 to help her team grab a 2-0 lead in the first period.
“We had a lot of opportunities, especially early in the game when it was still 1-0 and 2-0,” Chu said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t bear down.”
Dartmouth got on the board at the 1:13 mark when forward Caroline Ethier beat Harvard goalie Christina Kessler with a shot in the lower left corner.
The next ten minutes were tight and scoreless but a Dartmouth power play in the 12th minute, with a bit of luck going the Big Green’s way, extended the lead to 2-0. Dartmouth sophomore Sarah Bowman fired a shot that deflected off the skate of a Harvard defender into the back of the net.
In the second period, Harvard capitalized on a two-man advantage at the 11:20 mark when sophomore Jenny Brine put away a loose puck off a nice 1-2 combination from Chu and Cahow. The score was Brine’s 19th of the season and 15th coming off the power play—two categories in which she currently leads the nation.
Dartmouth foiled the Crimson’s comeback efforts, though, when Ethier, left alone in front of the Crimson net, slammed one home with just over six minutes left in the frame.
The third period was the Crimson’s for the taking, but it was Dartmouth that notched another goal to push the score to the final 4-1 count.
Harvard shelled the Dartmouth goal, outshooting the Big Green 14-4 in the period, and had two power play opportunities come its way, though it could not capitalize. Scoring on just one of seven opportunities with the extra skater is a surprising result for the Crimson, given that the team entered the game with the nation’s second best conversion rate.
“We had some really great looks at the net but against a team like Dartmouth, you have to capitalize on any opportunities,” Chu said. “They have strong offensive power and as an offensive unit, we have to be able to score just as many goals.”
Freshman Christina Kessler finished with 25 saves for Harvard while Clemis recorded a career-high 38 saves, making the difference in a game in which Harvard outshot Dartmouth 39-25.
The Crimson kicks off its set of 5 ECAC games on Friday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. at Bright Arena against Princeton.
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Compton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.