Men's hockey splits weekend games

by Mac Emery and Gayne Kalustian | 1/31/16 7:30pm

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Tennis balls fly after the first goal at the Dartmouth men's hockey game against Princeton on Saturday.
by Seamore Zhu / The Dartmouth

The No. 1 Quinnipiac University Bobcats and unranked Princeton University Tigers trekked north to Hanover this weekend to face off with the Dartmouth men’s ice hockey team, in the receiving votes category, bringing with them two completely different stresses. The first brought with it the challenge of simply being the best team around. The second brought with it the pressure of performing in front of the over 4,000 people that turned out to take part in Dartmouth’s annual tradition of assaulting the visiting Tigers (3-9-2 overall, 5-14-2 ECAC) with tennis balls following the Big Green’s (11-9-1 overall, 8-6-0 ECAC) inaugural goal. Dartmouth split the weekend, pulling ahead of the current national powerhouse 5-2 before allowing four unanswered goals and an empty netter to put them on the wrong side of a comeback, dropping the contest to the Bobcats (20-1-5 overall, 11-0-3 ECAC) 7-5. The Big Green returned to Thompson Arena to shutout the Tigers 2-0 on Saturday.

The Bobcats posed a serious threat to Dartmouth’s then-five-game win streak before the Friday game, not dropping a single game this season to ECAC opponents and only one game in its 25 played at that point in total, lost to now No. 9 Boston University in mid-December.

With an improbable and yet not impossible task before them, the Big Green offense got to work immediately. Centerman Carl Hesler ’18 netted a goal 9:04 into the first period off a rebound, centered from Kevin Neiley ’18 to Ryan Bullock ’16 who shot the puck off Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig. Dartmouth inched out further ahead just 0:41 into the second period as Jack Barre ’16 put away his eighth goal of the season on a completely exposed net after a full-team assault on the Quinnipiac crease. After a Quinnipiac goal by Travis St. Denis less than five minutes later, Barre struck again, giving Neiley his third assist of the night and Dartmouth a 3-1 lead as he put another rebounded puck in behind Garteig.

John Ernsting ’19’s first career goal came less than a minute into the third period and a goal by Brett Patterson ’16 sandwiched Quinnipiac’s second goal, putting Dartmouth ahead by three with less than 15 minutes to play and the nation’s powerhouse searching for a miracle.

The unprecedented avalanche that the Bobcats brought down on the Big Green began with an unassisted goal by Devon Toews after he collected a puck at the point to push it past Chuck Grant ’16 down the ice. Less than a minute later, Quinnipiac’s Sam Anas skated outside of the crease to put a backhanded shot on the far post, putting the back by just one. Anas scored the tying goal at 10:49 before a Bo Pieper redirect gave Quinnipiac the lead. An empty-netter with four seconds left sealed the five-point swing and buried the Big Green somewhere in the Bobcats’ current 20 regular season wins.

Despite taking a loss, Dartmouth scored more goals against Quinnipiac in this game than any other team has all season — including itself in November. The Big Green lost to the Bobcats 6-2 on Nov. 14 when Quinnipiac was ranked No. 4 and Dartmouth was yet to receive votes.

“We’re a good hockey team, we played a good hockey game and obviously they’re the number one team in the country,” head coach Bob Gaudet ’81 said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. We played a hard game, and they beat us.”

Two very strong periods of hockey may have been silenced on the scoreboard, but for the team that is looking to learn and grow as the postseason looms, the 40 minutes of grinding out goals and holding the worthiest of worthy opponents to a three-goal deficit bodes well. Despite the inevitable disappointment that comes with allowing a lead to slip away, losing to the country’s leading team, captain Brad Schierhorn ’16 said, is bittersweet.

“We took our foot off the gas a little bit,” he said. “We did score a couple goals early there. It definitely gives us some confidence. If they’re the number one team in the country, it gives us confidence that we can play with anybody.”

The confidence translated to a shutout victory on Saturday night, Grant’s third shutout of 2016 and a very necessary nightcap to a weekend that could have set Dartmouth on a downward trajectory at the absolute wrong moment in the season. The 37-save shutout is Grant’s best is his Dartmouth career, leaving the goalie with a memorable night but raising some questions about a team that allowed 37 shots on goal to take place at all.

“We’ve been finding ways to win games,” Grant said. “Maybe we didn’t have our best play. Our chords are just finding ways to hit the back of the net, with our chances. I think we only have two losses [since Jan. 1], so that might be one of the better records in the nation.”

Barre echoed the concern that it wasn’t the team’s best game but pointed, too, to the importance of the victory while Gaudet said that “it wasn’t a pretty ‘W.’”

Gaudet said that Grant was the team’s “star tonight”despite Princeton executing and playing well “with a lot of energy, a lot of heart.”

“We did a good job of killing penalties down the stretch,” Gaudet said.

The Big Green penalty kill was on point on Saturday, killing all three penalties it pulled.

Fans flung tennis balls from the stands at 8:34 into the first period, brought on by a goal by Alex Jasiek ’19. Troy Crema ’17 played aggressively to Tiger goaltender Colton Phinney, keeping the puck loose in the paint for Jasiek to backhand into the net. The second and only other goal of the night came at the hands of Barre, who carried the puck from the Big Green’s defensive zone to sink it behind Phinney’s left shoulder. Barre has been instrumental in the team’s recent success, averaging 1.4 points per game in January, an ECAC leading mark and making Barre the second most productive player on offense in the NCAA since Jan. 1. Barre leads Dartmouth in both goals (10) and assists (10), ultimately putting the senior six points ahead of his nearest teammate. Based off of this season’s conference games, Barre is tied for fifth as an ECAC scoring leader.

With four weeks left in the regular season, the Big Green is looking to replicate, more or less, its recent results and give itself the best position possible moving into the ECAC tournament. Dartmouth is looking forward to two road games against Ivy and ECAC opponents Brown University and No. 11 Yale University next weekend, a weekend the Big Green split earlier in November. Yale sits just ahead of the Big Green in the ECAC standings, making the matchup critical for Dartmouth who, though four weeks out, currently sits just one place out of securing a bye out of the first round – a bid straight to the ECAC Quarterfinals in March.