Disciplined men's hockey is among nation's least-penalized teams

by Addison Dick | 2/18/19 2:30am

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Bob Gaudet's brand of clean, disciplined hockey puts Dartmouth among nation's least-penalized teams.

by Alex Fredman / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Tied in a scoreless game against No. 11 Clarkson University with under one minute to go in the third period, Drew O’Connor ’22 tipped in a centering pass from Clay Han ’20 to give the men’s hockey team a signature win. The game was a bit of an anomaly for the Big Green: the team committed six penalties on the night, tied for the most times the team has gone to the penalty box since November. This season, the Big Green is sixth among Division I teams with fewer than nine penalty minutes per game.

Forward Alex Jasiek ’19 believes the low number of penalty minutes is a result of good habits in practice. 

“I think the coaches preach consistently staying out of the box because we know we are able to play with anyone in the country 5-on-5,” he said.

Assistant captain Carl Hesler ‘18 noted that the coaches put “no undisciplined penalties” on a checklist of things to do before every game. The team attempts to play a physical brand of hockey while playing cleanly. Hesler said staying out the box has helped the team recently.

O’Connor said the team’s discipline starts with the coaching staff and the desire to play even strength hockey. 

“It’s very important for us to be able to play our style of game and wear teams down, and to be able to do that, we cannot be killing penalties all game,” O’Connor said. “Our players know that our best chance to win games is when we are either on the power play or playing 5 v. 5.”

The Big Green’s ability to stay out of the box is particularly helpful due to the team’s penalty kill struggles this year. The team ranks among the bottom 10 in Division I in penalty kill percentage, allowing 16 goals in 69 short-handed situations.

In its season opener against Harvard, the Big Green committed a season-high eight minor penalties. The Crimson took advantage, scoring on five of seven power plays. Despite the short-handed struggles, Dartmouth won that game 7-6 in overtime.

Jasiek said the Big Green’s penalty kill is better than the numbers suggest. 

“Obviously our first game against Harvard [University] was not ideal, but I think when we do go down a man, we have gotten much stronger in that aspect of the game and we trust our kill to save us,” he said.

In the first three games this season, the Big Green committed 19 penalties and faced 49 penalty minutes. In contrast, in its previous four games before this weekend, the team committed eight penalties and faced 16 penalty minutes.

O’Connor has felt the improvement as the season has progressed. 

“Scoring goals and being better on our power plays is an area we can improve [on] as well,” he said.

While the Big Green committed six penalties against Clarkson on Friday, the penalty kill was outstanding, allowing the Golden Knights only three power play shots on goal. Dartmouth goaltender Adrian Clark ’20 stopped all three of those shots and all 29 shots he faced on Friday in the Big Green’s fourth shutout this season.

The following night against St. Lawrence University, the Big Green committed four penalties, including a game misconduct boarding penalty by John Ernsting ’19 in the first period. 

Despite the uptick in penalty minutes this weekend, Jasiek thinks the team is well-disciplined overall. 

“We have a couple of hiccups here and there, just like every team, but we know our best chance to win is by staying even with the other team, so we all preach to each other to do that,” he said.

After the game misconduct, the Big Green was faced with an ensuing five-minute penalty kill.  Once again, the team’s penalty kill looked strong, allowing just two shots and no goals. The team finished the weekend seven-for-seven in penalty kills, and the St. Lawrence game ended in a 2-2 after overtime.

Jasiek is not surprised that the Big Green is among the least-penalized of all 60 Division I teams.

“We all move our feet really well and stay out of the after-whistle scrums, which helps our game immensely,” he said. “We all realize that a penalty can potentially hurt our team, so we tend to play smarter than most other teams.”

Following the three-point weekend, Dartmouth is tied for seventh with Union College in the Eastern College Athletic Conference standings. The Big Green will look to return to its disciplined ways next weekend with two home games against Yale University and Brown University. The team will then conclude the regular season with two road games against Union and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before beginning the ECAC tournament, which starts on the second weekend of March.