Men’s hockey secures No. 5 seed in ECAC tournament

by Addison Dick | 3/4/19 2:30am

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The Big Green defeated RPI 5-2 on Saturday, ensuring its second straight No. 5 seed in the ECAC tournament.

by Alex Fredman / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

A three-point weekend propelled the men’s hockey team into fifth place of the Eastern College Athletic Conference standings as the regular season came to a close. The Big Green lost 4-3 in overtime to Union College and earned a 5-2 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The team will open the ECAC tournament next weekend at Thompson Arena in a best-of-three series against St. Lawrence University.

On Friday against Union, the Big Green never led and appeared on its way to a regulation loss. After Alex Jasiek ’19 tied the game at one with under eight minutes in the third period, Union found the back of the net twice. With fewer than two minutes remaining, the Big Green trailed 3-1.

Drew O’Connor ’22 cut the lead in half on an empty net goal with 78 seconds left, and 57 seconds later, Quin Foreman ’21 scored another empty net goal and sent the game into overtime. Union quickly found the back of the net in the final minute of overtime, but the Big Green salvaged a point in a game that appeared out of reach.

The game marked the first time in seven games this season that the Big Green lost a game when it registered fewer shots on goal than its opponent, and the loss eliminated the team from the possibility of a first-round bye.

Having already secured a home playoff series, the Big Green entered Saturday night hoping to improve its seeding in the ECAC tournament. Will Graber ’20 scored a hat trick and O’Connor added two goals to lead the Big Green to a comfortable win over RPI. The Big Green, trailing 1-0, scored four unanswered goals, including two goals in the second period that came 19 seconds apart.

The win over Union concluded the Big Green’s regular season. The Big Green finished the regular season with a record of 11-14-4 and a 10-9-3 record in ECAC play. Goaltender Adrian Clark ’20 said the season was marked by ups and downs and that he learned just how crazy the ECAC can be, with any team being in a position to win any game. The Big Green showed that this year, with wins over each of the top four teams in the ECAC.

“It’s pretty cool to have shown that we can play with top teams like Cornell, Clarkson and Yale,” Clark said. “At this point, I’m really happy with how we’ve played against every team. We didn’t take any teams lightly, and we didn’t give up against the higher ranked teams. It shows not only our mental toughness, but also the skill set that everyone has on the team.”

Saturday’s victory placed Dartmouth into a tie with Yale for fifth in the ECAC standings, but the Big Green’s season sweep of the Bulldogs gave them the tiebreaker for conference tournament seeding. As a result, the Big Green will play at home next weekend against St. Lawrence, which finished in last place in the league. The Big Green recorded a win and a tie against the Saints this season, most recently playing to a 2-2 draw on Feb. 16. If the team is able to win the series, it will travel to play Harvard University in a three-game series on March 15-17.

The Big Green opened the season against Harvard in one of the most memorable games of the season. Despite allowing five power play goals to the Crimson, the Big Green defeated its rival 7-6 in an overtime thriller.

“It was a really emotional one,” Clark said. “Looking back at it now, it’s crazy how those two points were really critical for us and how they’ve helped us in the standings at this point in the year.”

Looking ahead to the postseason, O’Connor is hoping to make a playoff run deep into the tournament. 

“In the playoffs, everyone wants to win,” O’Connor said. “So it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we need to play a complete game, and I think we’ll be fine. We have no reason to overlook anybody because we know how good every team is.”

O’Connor finished the regular season with 13 goals to lead the Big Green in scoring. He is hoping to continue his momentum into his first conference tournament. 

“I’m not going to let it change too much,” he said. “It’s the same game we’re playing, just a little more intense. I’m really excited for it. Playoffs are a lot of fun to play in.”

The Big Green will face the same scenario it faced last season. That year, No. 5 Dartmouth played No. 12 St. Lawrence, with the Big Green advancing in a three-game series. The Big Green then fell to Harvard in another three-game series. This postseason, the team will look to move a step further and reach the third weekend of the tournament in Lake Placid, New York.

Games one and two against St. Lawrence are on Friday and Saturday night in Thompson Arena at 7 p.m. If the teams split those two games, a winner-take-all third game would take place on Sunday night at 7 p.m.