Men’s hockey closes out preseason with blowout win

by Gayne Kalustian | 10/26/15 7:30pm

The men’s ice hockey team finished up its preseason last weekend with a crushing 7-0 victory over the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers, ushering in its season with a strong start. The Big Green will play Harvard University in its home opener this Saturday followed by a second match on Sunday. Though early in the season, the back-to-back games will be critical for the Big Green, as the Crimson was picked to finish third by the media and first by the coaches in the ECAC preseason polls. By comparison, the College was picked to finish seventh and ninth by the media and coaches, respectively. While it is sure to be a difficult game, there are also few better ways to go into a game of that importance than on the success of a seven-goal shutout.

The Big Green attack, amassing 11 goals in just two preseason games — the first against the United States National Development U-18 team — has wasted no time in replacing the eight graduated seniors, four of whom were critical forwards. Three freshmen — Alex Jasiek ’19, Karan Toor ’19 and Kevan Kilistoff ’19 — scored goals in preseason games while sophomore Corey Kalk ’18 picked up three of his own, one unassisted. Regarding the seven-goal game on Saturday against UPEI, captain Brad Schierhorn ’16 said the team was looking for strong fundamentals on the attack.

“We really weren’t doing anything fancy,” Schierhorn said. “We were keeping things simple, getting pucks to the net. Our big body guys were working down low, and our small guys were getting in there, too.”

The team’s success against UPEI started right off the bat, as the Big Green notched three unanswered goals in the opening 10 minutes of action, leaving the Panthers in a hole they were ultimately unable to escape. Though the Big Green played well both offensively and defensively, the team struggled to avoid penalties, racking up seven penalties and 14 penalty minutes in the game — both higher totals than Dartmouth had seen last week against the U.S. National Development team. Even in this area, Dartmouth still managed to outclass the Panthers, who committed eight penalties and had a whopping 27 penalty minutes.

While a total evisceration of a Canadian Interuniversity Sport hockey team in the preseason never hurts, what that game can give to Dartmouth moving into the regular season and beyond is what matters — additional experience for an expanded game roster, a reintroduction to a very physical game, a period apiece for each of the Big Green goaltenders — James Kruger ’16, Charles Grant ’16 and Devin Buffalo ’18 — and the opportunity to work on both open-ice play and man-advantage situations. Regarding the latter, head coach Bob Gaudet took advantage of the opportunity to cycle in various players for the penalty kill, which put away all four UPEI power plays throughout the game.

The coaching staff, Gaudet said, is looking to put together two-man groups instead of four-player units, with eyes on six to eight forwards and “maybe all six defensemen,” though he emphasized that they are still uncertain as to what it will actually look like. With respect to what he’s looking for in his penalty killers, Gaudet named intelligence, work ethic, skating ability, courage and the ability to win a face-off.

“Jack Barre [’16] came out off the face-off and went down, blocked the puck right on the flesh of his knee. There’s no padding there. He’s just a real courageous guy. He’ll do that,” Gaudet said. “Carl Hesler [’18] is kind of a prototypical penalty killer where he’ll take a hit to get it out of the zone. Geoff Ferguson [’16]. Tim Shoup [’18]. There’s a level of kind of physical and mental toughness to actually block pucks and read where the puck is going next.”

Though the team did kill all the penalties on Saturday night, the U.S. Development team scored on three of its five power plays in its game last week. Whether the better penalty kill against UPEI was a product of a less potent opposing power play or a step in the right direction for Dartmouth’s special teams will only be answered as the season progresses. With eyes on the power play, the Big Green actually did worse against UPEI, converting only two of four man-advantage opportunities. One of these advantages lasted five straight minutes, after UPEI’s Craig MacLauchlan was given a major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind — a hit that left a Dartmouth freshman knocked out on the ice for moments before he retired to the locker room for the rest of the game. To be fair to Dartmouth, Kilistoff’s third-period goal came riding the momentum of a power play after the team sent the puck out of their own zone, giving several forwards looks at the net before Kilistoff buried it.

While the pairings, lines and special teams are taking shape on the word of the coaches, the players are exercising their agency in the selections as well. With the departure of last season’s senior class emerges opportunities for new players and players who saw less playing time to earn positions on the ice and step into leadership roles.

“There’s a lot of opportunity,” Hartley said. “Guys that haven’t had big roles are determined to go and take them.”

Hartley added that these opportunities are bringing about a competitive spirit that is good for the team.

“The competition is bringing the best out of everybody,” he said. “I think there’s pressure on everyone to take those spots. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.”

Hartley himself has been making a case for the spot on the ice, having scored two goals in the two preseason games, a nod to his mobility as a defenseman. He and the other Big Green players will be fighting for a spot on the season opening roster against Harvard this Saturday in Thompson Arena at 7 p.m.