Men's hockey rebounds after disappointing start

by Jake Philhower | 1/8/18 2:10am

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by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

Hanover has always been a haven for hockey, hosting several great teams including a few NCAA Frozen Four squads. Coming into the 2016-2017 season, expectations were high for Dartmouth’s men’s hockey. In the past few years, the Big Green has struggled, but the team’s goals never change. The Eastern College Athletic Conference is yet again loaded with top ranking teams, both Ivy and non-Ivy League, but the veteran core of the Big Green is determined to make some noise in the conference this year. After going to the ECAC semifinals two years ago, the Big Green is hungry for more.

Forward Corey Kalk ’18 was very clear about his expectations for the team this year: winning the ECAC Championship and getting a bid to the national tournament.

“Getting a taste of Lake Placid two seasons ago, we know this year we have the depth and the guys to get there and learn from two seasons ago,” Kalk said.

This year’s group of players were certainly very excited to prove they were ready to step up to advance the team to the top of the ECAC. This, however, proved to be difficult for the team out of the gate. In the first part of the season, the Big Green went 2-7-1 with large losses to Bentley University, Cornell University and Harvard University.

Heading into the team’s Winter break, the Big Green traveled to Denver to play the reigning NCAA champions University of Denver in a two-game series. In the first game, the Big Green played a tough game, battling it out with the then-No. 2 team in the nation and coming up just short in a 1-0 loss. However, the Big Green regrouped and delivered a 5-4 win in the second game of the series.

Traveling to Denver and proving it could play with the best teams in the country looked to be a possible turning point for the team’s season. Goalie Devin Buffalo ’18 was excited about what the team accomplished during the trip to Denver.

“The first game we did everything right, [we] just couldn’t put one past their goalie,” Buffalo said. “The second night we found ourselves down 3-0. We ended up coming back and winning. To be ranked No. 58 and beat No. 2 really gave our team confidence.”

To close out 2017, the men hosted the Ledyard Classic, with a pair of games against then-No.16 University of New Hampshire and then-No. 17 University of Minnesota, Duluth. The team came out strong against New Hampshire in the first matchup, delivering a decisive 3-1 victory and showing its strong defensive abilities in the second and third period by shutting out the New Hampshire offense. In the second matchup against Minnesota, Duluth, the team struggled more, losing in a shootout after tying 2-2.

“Following the [Denver] series up with a win against the University of New Hampshire and a tie with the University of Minnesota, Duluth really showed what we were capable of,” Buffalo said. Though the Big Green has shown flashes of elite hockey throughout the season, there have been struggles putting together a complete dominant performance on a regular basis. This past weekend, for example, the Big Green dropped a crucial ECAC matchup against Union College in a 4-1 loss. If the team wants to be a contender for the ECAC title and beyond, delivering a complete 60-minute game on a regular basis is critical, regardless of opponent.

When asked about which areas the Big Green needs to improve, endurance seems key.

“We need to be able to play a full 60 minutes and not let up when things don’t go our way,” Kalk said. “That has been our biggest struggle this season.”

The road for the Big Green does not get any easier looking forward. Being a part of the ECAC, the Big Green will be facing top-notch talent on a weekly basis. With the guidance of head coach Bob Gaudet ’81, the young team has potential, but consistency cannot continue to be a lingering issue going into the latter parts of the season if it intends on reaching some of its lofty goals.

This weekend, the Big Green will be hosting ECAC rivals, Princeton University and Quinnipiac University. These ECAC opponents, though unranked, are always challenging foes who will be looking to come into Hanover and steal a conference win. This homestand will give the Big Green a chance to defend its home ice and start racking up in-conference wins. Veteran defenseman Tim Shoup ’18 understands how vital this weekend as well as other upcoming conference matchups are and expects a big weekend for the team.

“Every game for the rest of the season is a league game so they are all very big games for us, but Princeton this upcoming weekend is always very enjoyable to play in and all of the boys are very excited to bring the tennis balls out,” Shoup said.

The Big Green are set to host Quinnipiac this Friday at 7 p.m. and the annual “Tennis Ball Game” against Princeton on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Thompson Arena.