Men’s hockey splits pair of road games
Personally, I find the game-winning goal statistic to be over-hyped. Players collect them here and there, sometimes coincidentally in the middle of the game or right after the puck drops if their team’s defense is good enough. On Friday night, though, team point leader and alternate captain Eric Neiley ’15 put a game-winner top shelf against Clarkson University for the 3-2 victory that represented everything a game-winning goal is supposed to — nicked off a perfect pass, under pressure in overtime, with nothing accidental or incidental about it. The overtime goal — just over a minute into the period — was the first of his collegiate career.
“The defenseman won a battle in the D zone and got the puck up to [Grant Opperman ’17] on the wing who gave it across ice to [Brandon McNally ’15], and we went down three-on-two,” Neiley said. “[Opperman and I] both drove the net hard. It really was the perfect pass right off my stick — I just redirected it.”
Dartmouth’s game against Clarkson went scoreless for nearly 30 minutes and was finally cracked open by Carl Hesler ’18, who collected his second goal of the season in what Opperman described as “a great individual play.”
“I remember him having the puck below the goal line and then starting to walk up the half wall,” Opperman said. “He cut back on the [defenseman] and absolutely just burnt him. As soon as Hesler realized he had [the defenseman] beat he took it right to the net, which was the right play.”
Jesse Beamish ’15, who has been quietly working himself into the fabric of Dartmouth’s offensive strength, netted the second goal of the game. Beamish was scratched from the lineup from Jan. 24 through Feb. 7 and was reintroduced to the ice against Yale University. Since then, he has collected five points on three goals and two assists. Beamish, Neiley said, is a critical element to the team’s recent offensive success.
“It’s good to see whenever someone — especially a senior — is not playing, and you know he will come back with a little extra fire,” Neiley said. “To see him produce and help the team, that’s part of the reason why we’ve been so successful recently because guys like him, guys like Nick Bligh [’16], who weren’t playing have been really contributing offensively. That’s huge to get guys like that who have been in and out of the line up and have that extra motivation. That’s how you’re going to get the best out of them.”
Dartmouth, whose penalty kill percentage is just over 79, gave up two goals on Clarkson’s only two power plays of the game, both set in motion by two uncharacteristic penalties for defenseman Tim Shoup ’18. After playing in 23 of the team’s 27 games this season as a freshman, Shoup has only taken six total penalties and amassed a +8 rating, second only in the pool of defenseman to Rick Pinkston ’15 with +11. Pinkston became a standout for Dartmouth against St. Lawrence University on Saturday night after netting the team’s first two goals — one of them unassisted.
“It’s nice to get that production from the back end,” alternate captain Eric Robinson ’14 said. “I think the past 10 games or so we’ve been getting production from just about everyone, including first, second, third [and] fourth lines and also defensemen. It’s good to get everyone on the same page.”
Ultimately, St. Lawrence got the best of Dartmouth, catapulted ahead of the Big Green by a four-goal third period. The teams entered the third separated by a single goal, and Robinson felt the team had chances to win the game. The final goal came on an empty net, vacated with over three minutes left to give Dartmouth a six-on-four power play. The Saints, Opperman said, outworked the Big Green.
“They were pretty opportunistic,” he said. “It felt like the chances they got they scored on. We did not have our A-game and that’s for sure. You might see them in playoffs, and I’m not afraid of that match up. I think if we bring our game, it’s a whole different game.”
The season is coming down to the wire for Dartmouth, who stands just one point out of fourth place in the ECAC, currently held in a tie by No. 23 Colgate and No. 14 Harvard University. Colgate has the challenge of facing off with third place and No. 15 Yale University in the closing weekend of the regular season, while Harvard and Dartmouth both will have to take on the top of the ECAC and No. 10 Quinnipiac University. Dartmouth will first face off against Princeton University, ranked in the bottom position of the ECAC, at home on Friday night at 7 p.m.