Friday, March 21, 2003 Updated: March 22, 8:28 AM ET
Harvard, Minnesota-Duluth meet in title game Sunday
DULUTH, Minn. -- Harvard stumbled last Sunday in the ECAC
title game, and that made Minnesota nervous.
Minnesota forward Natalie Darwitz, in net, slams into Harvard goalie Jessica Ruddock in the third period.
Julie Chu and Angela Ruggiero each scored two goals, helping the
Crimson bounce back from a lopsided loss to Dartmouth last weekend
with a 6-1 semifinal victory over the Gophers on Friday in the
Women's Frozen Four.
It was the largest margin of victory in the three years the NCAA
has sponsored the tournament.
"I think they wanted to come out and prove something,"
Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said. "I was afraid that loss
might've been the best thing for Harvard."
The second-seeded Crimson (30-2-1) advanced to Sunday's national
championship game, where they'll play defending champ Minnesota-Duluth.
"Last week did a lot for us,'' Ruggiero said. "We had very
intense practices this week, and we came into this weekend with a
lot of determination."
Lauren McAuliffe and Tracy Catlin also scored for Harvard, with
McAuliffe's coming 23 seconds after Chu's first goal late in the
first period. And goalie Jessica Ruddock -- who made 17 saves --
bounced back from a poor performance in the 7-2 loss to the Big
Green last Sunday.
The Gophers (27-7-71), who tied Niagara in the third-place game
last year and lost to Minnesota-Duluth in the final of this year's
WCHA playoffs, had reason to be feel good about their chances
against Harvard. They beat the Crimson 4-3 in November in
Minneapolis and star forward Krissy Wendell suited up Friday for
the first time after missing a month with a broken collarbone.
But all confidence Minnesota had was quickly deflated by
Harvard, the top-ranked team for the final 14 weeks of the season.
The Crimson, led by the trio of Chu, Ruggiero and Jennifer
Botterill, were a step quicker and first to the majority of loose
pucks throughout the game.
Harvard outshot Minnesota 32-18, won nearly every faceoff and
overwhelmed the Gophers with suffocating defense.
"Our forwards were flying. I just felt intense," Ruddock said.
"We proved today why we are the best defensive team in the
Minnesota found it hard to argue.
"Anytime you have Angela Ruggiero there back on defense, it's
tough," forward Natalie Darwitz said. "She sees the whole ice.
You try to forecheck here, and she slides a pass into an opening in
Said Halldorson: "She's like another forward out there."
The game was even for 15 minutes until Harvard killed its third
penalty of the first period and shocked the Gophers with two quick
goals at the end of the period by Chu and McAuliffe.
"Too bad we couldn't bury one early," Halldorson said. "It
might've turned out differently."
From there, Minnesota goalie Jody Horak and her defenders were
simply overmatched by the three Harvard linemates, two of whom --
Ruggiero and Botterill -- are Patty Kazmaier award finalists.
Midway through the second, Jamie Hagerman's shot from the right
point sailed over the crossbar, bounced off the backboards and slid
to the goal line, where Chu picked it and poked it between Horak
and the left pipe.
With 44 seconds left in the period, Ruggiero led a two-on-one
and scored on an amazing shot that hit off Horak's right pad,
bounced in to make it 4-0 and caused the Minnesota goalie to hang
her head for several seconds.
The Gophers got on the board with 8:15 left when leading scorer
Darwitz scored on a breakaway before a multi-player collision
dislodged the net from its moorings.
The goal was initially waved off, but the officials took a
minute to review it and decided the puck crossed the line before
the net came off. Chu and Ruggiero added late goals for Harvard.
The game reunited four players from the silver-medal winning
Team USA in the 2002 Olympics -- Wendell, Darwitz, Ruggiero and Chu.
Botterill won the gold with Canada.