Big Green hockey looks to turn season around in 2006

by Evan Meyerson | 1/4/06 6:00am

The Dartmouth men's hockey team has a very clear New Year's resolution: to turn its season around right now. The 6-8 Big Green (5-5 ECACHL) will look to find the same resolve that led last year's squad -- which was 6-7-1 at the same point in 2004 -- to win 12 of its final 16 regular season contests. After an 0-4 start, the 2005-06 team has won six of its last ten and survived a grueling December, going 2-3 against solid competition, including a thrilling New Year's Eve overtime victory against Bemidji State (9-7-2) in the consolation game of the Sheraton/TD Banknorth Catamount Cup at the University of Vermont.

A night earlier, the Big Green had fought brilliantly, but in vain, losing to host Vermont 1-0. After falling behind 3-2 late in the third period against Bemidji, the resilient men in green pulled even on a power play slapper by Garret Overlock '06 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Nick Johnson '08, who has struggled thus far to match the scorching start he had last season, proved he has an eye for heroics once again, lighting the lamp 3:37 into the extra frame. "Bemidji was a good, quick team and it was a big win for us," said Johnson after the game. "Overlock's goal with a minute left was a huge relief and just gave us some confidence which we took into OT."

"I haven't been having as good of an offensive season as I would like," continued Johnson. "We switched up the lines to me, [Eric] Przepiorka ['06] and [Tanner] Glass ['07] which hopefully will just create different looks for our offense and hopefully get me going."

Mike Devine '08 received All-Tournament honors largely for his goaltending against Vermont (13-4-1). The Orchard Park, N.Y. native allowed only a single goal to the fourth-ranked team in the nation, coming with four minutes left in the second period. But one goal was all Vermont needed to down the Big Green.

Devine began the season as Dartmouth's backup goalie behind Sean Samuel '07. However, once Samuel's struggles in net were too obvious to ignore, head coach Bob Gaudet '81 pushed Devine into the starting role. The sophomore has not disappointed, putting up an impressive 2.39 GAA.

"I have definitely felt more comfortable as the season has gone on," said Devine. "It was tough early in the year not playing as much as I had hoped. Now that the playing time is coming, it's a big confidence booster and I feel more and more comfortable in net."

Earlier in the month, the Big Green dropped a pair of games to Massachusetts foes Boston University (7-7-2) and UMass-Lowell (6-11). BU beat up on Dartmouth 5-1 while Lowell squeaked by 3-2. Fortunately, the two losses did not deter the spirits of Big Green skaters for their game against Harvard (10-6-1, 7-5 ECACHL) the following week. Led by rookie Rob Pritchard '09 who tallied his first two collegiate goals, Dartmouth steam-rolled over the 14th-ranked Crimson 5-1.

With twelve of its next 15 games coming against league opponents, Dartmouth will have a fair chance at making headway in the ECACHL. Currently, the Big Green sits in sixth place, behind five teams that are all nationally ranked. With Nick Johnson hopefully on the verge of an offensive takeover and Mike Devine continuing his fine play in goal, all signs for a repeat of last year's second-half success are emerging. A fresh start and new year may be just what the doctor ordered for the Big Green.