Men’s hockey goes 2-0 on weekend

by Gayne Kalustian | 2/1/15 6:02pm

The feeling, centerman Carl Hesler ’18 said, was indescribable.

“I’m still kind of shaking from it,” Hesler said.

In his 21st collegiate game, Hesler netted the go-ahead goal to cement Dartmouth’s comeback 3-2 victory over the defending national champions, Union College, on Saturday night. The goal was the first of his collegiate career, only one in a long list of firsts for Dartmouth this weekend.

The Dartmouth men’s ice hockey team pulled off its first back-to-back wins in a weekend since its victories against American International College and then No. 1 Boston University on Nov. 29 and 30.

The Big Green defeated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 3-1 on Friday night — the first time it has beaten RPI by more than one goal since Nov. 2012, despite facing off with the Engineers seven times since then. The first goal of the game came on the first power play situation, ricocheted off the pipes by alternate captain Eric Neiley ’15 who has accrued seven points over the course of the last three games.

On Friday night, wing Troy Crema ’17, having recently returned after nursing a nagging high ankle sprain sustained last season, notched his first goal — and point — of the 2014-2015 season. The goal came for Crema off a slight deflection on a powerful shot from the blue line by Geoff Ferguson ’16 who was originally credited with the goal.

Later in the third period, solidifying the Big Green’s control over the contest, Kyle Nickerson ’17 also notched his first collegiate goal on a penalty kill, and Josh Hartley ’17 had his first assist of the season. Not a first, but still worthy of mentioning, Hartley, without a stick, cleared a dangerous puck out of the slot by throwing his body onto the ice and swinging it away with his hand.

The third period opened with an RPI power play after defenseman Ryan Bullock ’16 was penalized for holding with one second left in the second. The team was especially aware of the precarious one-goal lead they held, head coach Bob Gaudet said, knowing that they would come on to fresh ice a man down. Playing aggressive on the forecheck, Nickerson followed a loose puck into the crease and plucked it out from in between the goaltender’s legs to move Dartmouth ahead 3-1.

“Getting the shortie there at the start of the third was awesome because that was a key point of the game,” he said. “I couldn’t see the puck from where I was, but obviously it was behind the goalie. The goalie didn’t know it either. To follow the play up especially killing the penalty was really good.”

Hot off a win, Dartmouth returned to the ice on Saturday to find itself trailing Union after the second period for the second time this season. An early deflection off a save by goaltender Chuck Grant ’16 was brought around the back door and shoved in by Union center Max Novak 10 minutes into the game.

Dartmouth was able to tie the game later in the first, mid-shift change, as Brad Schierhorn ’16 came off the bench for Brandon McNally ’15 and nailed a shot in the net seconds after coming on the ice, still playing with the rest of McNally’s line. Less than 10 seconds into a penalty kill in the second period, however, Dartmouth lost the lead again.

Dartmouth entered the third period down by one and played the opening minutes of the stanza on Union’s terms. A scuffle by Neiley in front of the Bulldog net five minutes into the period lent a spark to the Big Green who would take it and turn it into a wildfire.

After the scrap, Hesler and Corey Kalk ’18 led Dartmouth to victory. Kalk tied the game 7:46 into the third.

“I came down the wing, calling for the puck from Carl — we practice it in practice all the time,” Kalk said. “It was a 2-on-1. He gave me a nice pass, [and I] caught it perfectly. The play slowed right down, the goalie opened up, and I just ripped it low. It doesn’t happen too often so it feels good.”

Hesler sealed the win with his first ever goal in the green and white with less than a minute-and-a-half left to play.

A hit after the whistle by McNally put Dartmouth on a penalty kill, just as Dartmouth had taken the lead late. twenty seconds later Ferguson went down on the ice and was slow to get up, suffering after a ruthless charge by Union, which relinquished the team’s one-man advantage.

With 39 seconds remaining, Union pulled its goalie to gain a 5-4 man advantage over Dartmouth. With four seconds left in the game, the crowd’s low cheering grew to a thunderous roar, not waiting for the clock to signal Dartmouth’s come from behind win, already knowing the end result as Neiley snuffed out Union’s last opportunity to snap off a shot.

After the game, the two freshmen on the fourth line who ferried Dartmouth to its third consecutive win credited their teammates for their success.

I got to give it to every line,” Kalk said. “Both the previous lines that went out battled hard in the o-zone and tired the other team out. It’s a team effort. Like coach always says, if one guys scores the whole team scores.”

The Big Green, having broken out of a rough stint of games in January, popped back up in the receiving votes category on USCHO.org’s Division I hockey rankings with one vote after beating Cornell University and tying Colgate University two weekends ago.

Next weekend, Dartmouth will be traveling to Providence, Rhode Island to play Brown University and to New Haven, Connecticut to take on Yale University. The Bulldogs beat the Big Green 4-1 early in the season.