Men’s hockey skates to 1-1 weekend

by Gayne Kalustian | 11/16/14 6:00pm

by Jeffrey Lee and Jeffrey Lee / The Dartmouth

Dartmouth, after putting up just one goal in a 4-1 loss to Yale University in the first of two this weekend, came onto the ice with something to prove Saturday. The team, trying to shake last season’s reputation that it was either hot or not, took the 22-hour break to compose itself, find the chemistry it lacked the night before, and smack the visiting Brown University Bears with a 6-0 shutout, the first career shutout for James Kruger ’16.

“None of the guys were happy with [Friday’s game],” Kruger said. “We know we’re a really good team this year and can beat any team that we want to. We knew we wanted to come out, take it to them, and that’s what happened.”

Dartmouth (2-2-1, 2-2-1 ECAC) took the game to Brown (1-4-0, 0-4-0 ECAC) in every sense of the phrase. The Big Green put up an overwhelming 48 shots on Brown’s goaltenders.

Just after the puck drop, Dartmouth’s Rick Pinkston ’15 received a two-minute penalty for boarding. The Big Green responded with a penalty kill that set the tone. The team killed the penalty and nearly collected a short-handed goal. Geoff Ferguson ’16 closed the PK by dropping to the ice to block a shot near the end of Brown’s power play.

In those opening minutes, Dartmouth’s defense broke down what little offense Brown mustered, holding the game at 0-0 until Brad Schierhorn ’16 broke the tie scored a goal in the eighth minute. Just over five minutes later, Ryan Bullock ’16, freshly reinstated after a start-of-season injury, netted the Big Green’s second goal of the game from the blue line. Dartmouth then descended on Brown’s defensive zone.

Just as it has for much of the season, Dartmouth shook up its shifts, seeking, head coach Bob Gaudet said, the chemistry that will make it the most effective team on the ice. After being scratched the night before, Grant Opperman ’17 took the ice with alternate captain Eric Robinson ’14 in his shift. Being left of out the line up the night before was a “wake-up call,” Opperman said, making it clear that he needed to start producing for Dartmouth this season if he wanted to remain a fixture in the team’s line up.

Opperman answered the call, ringing in his 21st birthday with two goals. Opperman and Eric Neiley ’15, who played on the same shift with his brother Kevin Neiley ’18 on Friday, each collected four points during the game.

Kruger stopped 23 shots to secure the shut out, despite a nerve-racking moment in the closing seconds when the Bears crashed the net before Dartmouth could clear the puck at the buzzer.

“The boys made it really easy on me,” Kruger said. “We dominated that game. That’s every goalie’s dream. You get three goals for your team in the first period. They hit a pipe, and I got a little puck luck and was able to make a save or two, so that’s great. I think the other reason our defense was so good [Saturday night] is that our offense was so dominant. Forwards were keeping it in their zone and wearing down their defense. They had nothing the whole game.”

Also entering the rink on Saturday were bigger, more back-minded defensemen like Ferguson after smaller and quicker players River Rymsha ’18 and Josh Hartley ’17, who are more offensively-focused, were taken out of the lineup after the loss to Yale.

From an offensive standpoint, Dartmouth played two entirely different games over the weekend. The team played aggressively on Friday and could have scored more goals than it ultimately did, Gaudet said. Overall, though, the team could not connect at the top and relied on crashing the net rather than setting up players on the point or across the ice like it did on Saturday.

The home opener loss to Yale was sealed on special teams. The Bulldogs went 2-5 with the man advantage while the Big Green was held to 0-4 on the evening.

Yale raced out to a 2-0 lead before Charlie Mosey ’15 put the Big Green on the board with a tip-in goal midway through the second period. But just 40 seconds later, Yale’s first power-play goal of the evening widened the advantage to two. A Yale goal at 11:28 in the third sealed the game for the visitors, who outshot the Big Green 30-27 in the game.

The team has seen mixed results with equally mixed pairings and lines thus far. The Big Green next takes the ice against Harvard University on Tuesday after tying the Crimson 3-3 in its season opener. The Crimson is the only team in the ECAC still 100 percent for penalty kills.

Tuesday’s game against Harvard begins at 7 p.m. in Thompson Arena.