Men’s hockey sweeps weekend to extend win streak to five

by Sam Stockton | 1/25/16 6:15pm

1-26-16-sports-hockey-seamorezhu
Dartmouth faces Quinnipiac and Princeton Universities this weekend.
by Seamore Zhu / The Dartmouth

The men’s hockey team traveled to central New York and knocked off both Cornell and Colgate Universities to extend their season-long win streak to five. Building off of its momentum from a strong start to the New Year, the Big Green was able to topple this pair of ECAC rivals.

“Everything seems to be clicking right now,” Troy Crema ’17 said. “Charles Grant [’16] in net has been really solid. We’re getting really timely scoring — in both games this weekend we had a goal in back-to-back shifts, which helped our momentum carry through the weekend. Everyone has bonded together as a team, and we’re getting even more momentum.”

Since the start of 2016, the Big Green has won seven of eight games and is playing its best hockey of the season, particularly in the team’s own end of the rink. The team has not allowed more than two goals in a single game during this window, realizing its goal of being one of the best defensive teams in the country.

“There’s been a big emphasis on our defensive zone and playing in our defensive zone the right way,” Grant Opperman ’17 said. “Once we got back from break, we’ve spent a lot of time practicing in our defensive zone with hopes that we could clean up our zone, be efficient in the zone and have the puck more, which obviously leads to more offense. I think we’ve seen that happen on our win streak, and we’ve been scoring a lot more goals.”

On Friday night in Ithaca, the Big Green continued its strong defensive play, earning a 3-0 shutout victory. Kevan Kilistoff ’19 opened the scoring early in the second period, finding the back of the net for the first time in his Dartmouth career. Kilistoff’s goal, assisted by Brett Patterson ’16 and Opperman, came when a centering feed from Patterson glanced off Kilistoff’s stick before ricocheting off a Cornell defender’s skate and past Big Red netminder Mitch Gillam. The goal was reviewed before eventually being upheld and would end up as the game-winner. Thirty-seven seconds after Kilistoff’s strike, Crema doubled the Big Green’s lead with his third goal of the season.

Throughout the night, the Big Green controlled the game, outshooting its Ivy League and ECAC rivals by a count of 29-18. The team knew that it had to adjust to Cornell’s significant size advantage.

“They’re a huge team,” Crema said. “I think their smallest [non-goalie starter] is listed at 6’2” or something like that. We knew we had to get the puck around them, and we take pride in our transition game. We were able a couple times to move the puck quickly up to our forwards and get some good odd-man rushes out of it. Eventually we got a couple lucky bounces and some goals.”

Opperman, who is listed at 6’1”, also noted the Big Red’s size.

“I remember going through the handshake line and looking up at a lot of their guys,” he said.

After allowing eight shots in the game’s opening frame, the Big Green surrendered just ten over the game’s final 40 minutes. Goaltender Grant stopped all Cornell shots to earn his second shutout of the season, with the first coming in a 3-0 victory over Merrimack College that clinched the 27th Annual Ledyard Classic for the Big Green.

“Chuck’s been great,” Crema said. “He’s just a stud right now. He’s backstopping us back there. His presence creates an amazing atmosphere on the ice that does great things for our team dynamic. He’s an amazing goalie and we’re happy to have him right now.”

After controlling their victory over Cornell from the start, the Big Green faced a new challenge when they traveled to Hamilton, New York to take on the Raiders. Colgate raced out of the gate to present Dartmouth with a two-goal deficit before the game was six minutes old.

“Colgate came out strong,” Crema said. “For some reason, they’ve kind of handed it to us the last couple years, and they came out with two quick goals. That kind of put us back on our heels, but the momentum of the streak and the bond that we’ve created helped us form together and be strong and play our game. By the end of the game, we were victorious.”

The Big Green’s captain emphasized the team’s focus on playing the way it had been playing throughout the New Year.

“After they scored two goals, we just made sure everyone stayed calm and stuck to our game,” captain Brad Schierhorn ’16 said. “We did the things that made us successful so far. We got back to getting pucks in deep and on net, and we were rewarded with two nice goals midway through the first. After that we just came out and played a solid team game and came out with the win.”

Not even two minutes after a Mike Borkowksi goal gave Colgate a 2-0 lead, Crema notched his second goal of the weekend to cut the Raider lead in half. On the next shift, Carl Hesler ’18 tallied his sixth goal of the season, and the Big Green tied the game.

After a scoreless second period, Tim O’Brien ’16 notched his first goal of the season, assisted by River Rymsha ’18 and Crema, early in the game’s final stanza to give Dartmouth its first lead of the night. From there, the team would survive three straight penalties to seal a 3-2 victory. Once again, Grant authored a strong performance in net, turning aside 28 shots en route to the victory. Grant was particularly impressive as the Raiders mounted a late rush, attempting to tie the game late.

The pair of wins improved the Big Green’s overall record to 10-8-1 (7-5-0 in the ECAC) and showed that the team could take its newfound momentum on the road. Going into the weekend, the team was just 2-6-1 on the road with its only loss in the New Year away against the University of Vermont. In central New York, the Big Green built on its impressive 2016 and earned two critical victories.

“Going on the road is always tough, especially in the ECAC, because there are so many strong teams,” Crema said. “Having that homestead for the last six games or so helped us gather confidence as a team and the momentum from that allowed us to get a couple big wins on the road.”

Patterson emphasized the importance of not changing the team’s style of play away from Thompson Arena.

“We came in expecting to win and play the style we’ve been playing at home,” he said. “We didn’t let the away barn change our preparation and the way we came to play.”

Despite the pair of wins, the team remains tied for fifth place in the ECAC. Next weekend, the Big Green will play host to Quinnipiac University, the country’s top ranked team, and rival Princeton University with four more crucial conference points on the line.