Men’s hockey drops two games in disappointing weekend

by Gayne Kalustian | 1/19/15 6:01pm

The Dartmouth men’s ice hockey team dropped a pair of home games against St. Lawrence University and Clarkson University last weekend, falling to St. Lawrence 3-2 on Friday before being taken by Clarkson 5-2.

After an impressive stretch of hockey during the winter interim period, the Big Green has run into some trouble finding its rhythm again after tying with the University of New Hampshire two weeks ago — a tie which only came after 50 solid minutes on the ice were derailed by an incomplete finish. The team, alternate captain Eric Robinson ’14 said, is still looking to put together consistent 60-minute games of hockey.

Now with a string of three losses, Dartmouth has dropped out of the receiving votes category on USCHO.com’s ranking of Division I hockey programs. While voters have ruled out Dartmouth as a top contender among Division I teams, a more analytical look at the team’s performance this season reveals hope for the Big Green, who still have 12 conference games to play.

For some teams, like the Packers in Lambeau Field, venue plays a critical role in performance. For Dartmouth, however, it seems to have a marginal impact, if any at all. The Big Green, 2-2-2 in away games and 4-6-1 at home, appears to be just as viable away as they are at home in Thompson Arena, providing little reason to be concerned when the Big Green takes on the Saints and the Golden Knights again at the end of the season.

In terms of skill, the Big Green has defeated all three of the highest-ranked opponents it has faced: then no. 1 Boston University (2-0), then-no. 11 University of Denver (shootout, 2-1) and then no. 8 Union College (overtime 4-3). Dartmouth has proven it can compete at the highest level. The questions remain as to how it can compete at that level all the time — and why it doesn’t.

In 17 games this year, Dartmouth has only lost two in which it was the first team to score. In the eight games in which Dartmouth was not the first to score, the team has only won two: the 4-3 comeback overtime victory against Union and a lopsided 8-3 win over Sacred Heart University.

In both games this past weekend, Dartmouth fell behind to early deficits of 3-0 against St. Lawrence and 2-0 against Clarkson before scoring a goal. St. Lawrence, who opened the game from the start with an aggressive forecheck, scored an unassisted, shorthanded goal against the Big Green.

In the middle of the second period, up 3-0, St. Lawrence’s Nolan Gluchowski blind-sided Brad Schierhorn ’16 for his second penalty of the game — his first major — and was sent off the ice with a game misconduct. St. Lawrence is usually more of a skill-oriented team, wing Brandon McNally ’15 said, but came out with a more physical game on Friday. Neither team capitalized on any of the 11 total power plays, five for St. Lawrence and six for Dartmouth. Despite failing to secure the victory, Dartmouth raised its level of play late in the second period and came out for the third looking like a completely different team, dismantling St. Lawrence’s forecheck with fast-paced defense and controlling play for a good portion of the rest of the game. Goals by Eric Neiley ’15 and McNally put Dartmouth within striking distance of the Saints.

“It was a little bit of wake up call after the first and second,” defenseman Ryan Bullock ’16 said. “We weren’t really helping out our goalie as much as we should have been. We turned it around after the second, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough time.”

Troy Crema ’17, who has been nursing a high ankle sprain he suffered last season, returned to the ice this Saturday. The sprain, which became agitated early this season, has kept Crema from the rink, but it was still feeling good after Saturday night’s game, Crema said.

After falling behind two goals after 22 minutes of play, Dartmouth managed to fight back against Clarkson. Goals by Tyler Sikura ’15 and Rick Pinkston ’15 in the second period tied the game before a power play goal early in the third by the Golden Knights shook the confidence of the Big Green, who allowed two more — one on an empty net — before the game concluded. The game against Clarkson represents the only game played all season -— aside from the early season win against Union College — where Dartmouth fell behind by at least two points and came back later on to tie the score at some point, hopefully showing some promise for the Big Green’s comeback ability.

While there certainly is no substitute for winning games, Dartmouth finds itself in a unique position among sub .500 athletic teams. The Big Green has a habit of winning — or coming very close — in games its record projects it should lose soundly. In a similarly confusing fashion, Dartmouth has dropped some games against less accomplished opponents in which objective spectators might have anticipated a victory.

Heading into the final stretch of the regular season, the men’s hockey team must piece together the emotions and competitiveness that the team has displayed in big games and figure out how to bring that level of play to every game.