Before yesterday, few would ever want to be equated with the Belorussian hockey team.
But after upsetting Sweden in the quarterfinals, Belarus is suddenly an inspiration for the women’s hockey team. The Bulldogs play No. 5 Dartmouth — the ECAC-North’s first-place team — 7 p.m. Friday before matching up with the University of Vermont (1-26-1, 0-14-0 ECAC-N) in games that have playoff implications for Yale (8-14-3, 2-9-1 ECAC-N).
“We hope to go out this weekend to pull off an upset against Dartmouth,” said forward Erin Duggan ’05, who has scored 11 goals this season. “We have a couple of key people out with injuries that will make it difficult, but as Belarus showed in the Olympics, sometimes teams who aren’t supposed to win do.”
It won’t be easy — Dartmouth (18-4-2) brings a 10-2-0 league record into the weekend , as well as a background of international competition. In December, the Big Green beat the German national team, 3-1, tied the Russians, 2-2, and lost to the U.S. team, 7-1.
This may not be the last time the Elis face Dartmouth. If Yale makes the playoffs as the eighth seed, which is the team’s current standing, it will likely travel to Hanover once again. The Bulldogs lost 8-3 in New Hampshire Jan. 6.
“Dartmouth is big and strong, but we know how they play and we can beat them if we play within our system,” said forward Deanna McDevitt ’03, who has been an offensive spark lately with 10 goals in the last five games.
Dartmouth will bring established goal scorers of its own — such as Carly Haggard, who has 27 goals and 28 assists this season, and Kim McCullough, with 14 goals and 12 assists — to New Haven. On the other end, goaltender Amy Ferguson boasts a .909 save percentage.
Saturday, the Elis face a more beatable team in Vermont. Previously this season, Yale bested the Catamounts, 3-0, and need to do so again in order to remain in playoff position.
“Vermont is an important game [because] we will move up in the standings if we beat them,” said captain Katie Hirte ’02, who recorded 20 saves for the Bulldogs when they last played UVM.
Vermont carries little offensive firepower — no one on the team has scored more than twice this season — but goalie Tiffany Hayes, who has averaged over 43 saves a game, could stifle the Elis’ offense.
“Our goal there is to get the puck to the net as much as possible and convert on the second chances,” said Sara Wood ’02, who is second on the team in goals. “If we can get on the board early in either game, we should be successful.”
The Vermont game will also pack a sentimental punch, as it is the final home game for Hirte and Wood.
“These are the last home games for the seniors so underclassmen really want to work hard for them and make these last two games memorable,” McDevitt said.