Men’s and women’s ice hockey teams to hit the road this weekend

by Alexander Agadjanian | 11/6/14 8:36pm

by Kelsey Kittelsen / The Dartmouth

The hockey teams are set to enter big matchups this weekend, with the men’s squad playing Union College Friday and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Saturday and the women taking on St. Lawrence University Saturday night.

The women’s hockey team (4-0, 2-0 ECAC) will travel to Rochester, New York, to square off against ECAC foe St. Lawrence University. Prior to this first road challenge, the team has started hot, notching victories in all three of its opening games as well as in an exhibition match.

Coach Mark Hudak pointed to a consistent effort as the key to the team’s early season success.

“We’ve had contributions from everybody on the team, defensively and offensively, so I think we’re playing well as a team right now,” Hudak said.

One of the most important tasks heading into the 2014-15 campaign was filling the void left by four-year starter Lindsay Holdcroft ’14 in goal. Having posted a 1.33 GAA and one shutout through the opening three games, Robyn Chemago ’17 has thus far successfully filled the role between the pipes.

The team has made strides from its youthful makeup, Hudak said, calling it a “middle-aged team.”

As to more literal growth, captain Karlee Odland ’15 pointed to an increase in size.

“This year we have a fully sized roster, and I think that affects so many things, like our practice,” Odland said. “We can keep things rolling a little bit better.”

More competitive and productive practice sessions have helped the team, Odland said.

As the women’s squad heads into its next ECAC matchup on Saturday, it will face an array of new challenges. Battling a squad in St. Lawrence (4-4-1, 1-2-0 ECAC) that has played nine games this season, the team will encounter a stout competitor whose goalie has stifled the team in the past. Now a senior, Carmen MacDonald has allowed one goal or less in six out of the last eight times she has guarded the net against the Big Green.

“We have to be able to go into that game and expect that it’s going to be a little harder game for us,” Hudak said. “But as long as we continue to maintain the effort that we’ve had and then continue to build on some of the skill stuff and some of our systems, I think we’ll be okay.”

Odland stressed the need for a cohesive and organized team effort.

“Just keeping things simple and being predictable to our teammates is going to be key. That’s when we work the best, when our teammates know what we’re going to be doing on the ice so they can read off us,” Odland said. “If we’re just sticking to our systems and being predictable to one another, we’ll come out with a win.”

The Big Green will soon enter the meat of its schedule, clashing with some of the best teams in women’s collegiate hockey. Hudak said he views the tough tasks ahead as a litmus test for his group.

“This part of the season is really that telling part,” Hudak said. “It’s going to give us a good indication of where we’re at and what we need to do to try to make a run for the playoffs.”

The men’s hockey team will handle a heftier upcoming slate this weekend. With road games against conference foes on consecutive nights, Dartmouth will seek to develop early-season momentum on its road trip.

Entering the new season, the Big Green (0-0-1, 0-0-1 ECAC) has immediately benefited from the returns of several key players who were injured last year. Among their most prominent returns, fifth-year senior Eric Robinson ’14, captain Tyler Sikura ’15 and Brett Patterson ‘16 will look to lead the team at full health.

Head coach Bob Gaudet noted that the severity rather than the large number of injuries proved more harmful.

“It was just an odd year because the injuries that we had were those that knock you out for an extended period of time,” Gaudet said. “So they weren’t like soft tissue injuries, they were bones and ligaments.”

Forward Eric Neiley ’15, Dartmouth’s goals (16) and points (29) leader from 2013-14, said he felt that his team’s experience will factor in prominently both on and off the rink.

“We’ve all been around. We know what the grind of the season is like, how to manage classes and hockey,” Neiley said. “We know how to go on the road and play in other team’s buildings.”

In its opening game, the team squared off against the Harvard Crimson, against which it split the season series last year. In this season’s contest, several lead changes and generally evenly matched play resulted in a 3-3 overtime tie.

Gaudet noted that the offense created “really good chances.”

“What I’d like to improve on is tightening up a bit defensively,” he said. “But in terms of the speed of the game we played, I thought we played really fast.”

Looking ahead to Friday, the Big Green will travel down to Schenectady, New York, to challenge the reigning Division I national champions, the Union College Dutchmen (5-3-0, 0-2-0 ECAC). Gaudet said the Union team is a physical team with strong goaltending.

Dartmouth will then head southeast within the state of New York to the home of the RPI Engineers (3-5-0, 2-0-0 ECAC), for a 7 p.m. game Saturday. RPI has already beaten the defending national champions twice this season, indicating an even tougher matchup ahead for the Big Green.

Neiley said he believes the familiarity between Dartmouth and RPI will fuel the intense action on the ice.

“We ended their season last year, so there’s probably a little bad blood left in their mouth from that, so we’re going to get their best effort,” he said. “It’s going to be a physical game like it always is there.”

Neiley said that although the team must tune out raucous environments, the road game experience -— particularly within ECAC play — is enjoyable.

“You get to clear your head and focus solely on hockey,” he said. “At the same time, there’s opposing fans and loud places to play and good teams, so it’s fun.”

In preparation for Dartmouth’s next two games as well as for the entire rest of the season, the team has focused heavily on refining its style of play, especially with respect to pace.

“We have tried to continue to hone the systems that we play with, get on the same page, even improving the speed at which we play,” Gaudet said. “It comes over the course of time. We really have to turn up the energy to compete at a high speed level, when you’re still learning line-mates and concepts on the ice.”

Looking ahead to the remainder of the year, Neiley expressed optimism about his team’s prospects.

“We have a really strong team. Obviously with the experience that we have, [we feel] this is our year,” Neiley said. “For the seniors, this is our last chance to put a banner up in the rink.”