Bulldogs play Ivy rivals in home opener

For the first time this season, the puck will drop on home ice for the women’s ice hockey team as it hosts two nationally ranked opponents in the next two days.

Tonight, the Bulldogs (3-1-1, 3-1-1 ECACHL) will face off against perpetual Ivy League foe No. 7 Harvard (2-0, 2-0) at Ingalls Rink. On Saturday, they will take on No. 8 Dartmouth (4-0-1, 2-0) in another league match that, like today’s game, will put their play to the test.

“Harvard has always been our main rival,” captain and defender Ann-Renee Guillemette ’08 said. “But in order to achieve two wins this week, we need to treat each team equally. All three of us have lost important players but have also gained incredible ones. We need to realize that both Harvard and Dartmouth are teams we need to battle hard against instead of labeling one more competitive than the other.”

The Elis have had a strong opening to their season despite dropping an October exhibition game against McGill (7-0, 4-1). They came out of their first league match with a hard-fought 1-1 tie against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (6-4-1, 1-2-1) — and then started on a three-game winning streak.

The string of conference victories culminated last Friday with a 5-2 triumph over Cornell (3-4-1, 0-1-1). The Bulldogs came back from a 2-0 deficit to claim the win, embarking on a five-goal scoring spree in the third.

But the next day brought the Elis their first defeat of the regular season, as they fell to Colgate (2-5-1, 2-0) in a dispiriting 3-2 overtime loss.

Until the last few seconds of the final period, the Bulldogs led the Raiders, 2-1. But Colgate came back to tie it up with three seconds to go and sent the game into overtime. With just over a minute to play in the extra period, Colgate put away a short-handed goal, snatching the victory away from the Elis.

The Crimson have only two games under their belt this season thus far, but both of those were come-from-behind wins, just like the Raiders’ victory last weekend.

Most recently, Harvard took down No. 10 Princeton (3-3-2, 1-3-1) in a 3-2 faceoff. After a back-and-forth game, the Cantabs finally came out ahead with the help of a game-winning slapshot by Crimson forward Sarah Vaillancourt, who recently competed in the Four Nations Cup for Team Canada and came home with a gold medal. With a 53-7-2 record, Harvard also holds a substantial lead in the overall series between the teams.

“Harvard and Dartmouth are both strong opponents,” forward Denise Soesilo ’10 said. “In order to beat them, we need to learn from our mistakes and improve on last week’s performance. Harvard also has a few very good players that can render little mistakes we make into fatal ones, so we need to be on top of our game.”

Dartmouth is coming off a 2-1 win over Providence (2-4-2) and also holds a considerable series advantage, with a 57-4-1 overall record against the Bulldogs. In 2006, the Elis defeated the Big Green for the first time in 20 years, and the teams are now matched closely enough that the outcome of the game will come down to which team is on top of its game, head coach Hilary Witt said.

“The results of this weekend will depend on how we play,” she said. “They should both be competitive games, and we’ll need to make sure we’re ready to play 120 minutes. We need to play smart and disciplined, especially in our own zone.”

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