Dartmouth hockey's schedule starts to slowly heat up this weekend, as the Big Green opens ECAC conference play with a pair of games Friday and Saturday night against Union and RPI, respectively.
On paper, these would appear to be ideal opponents early in the season, as the Big Green's weekend opponents were picked as the ECAC cellar dwellers for the 1996-97 season. However, both of these teams have fared relatively well against proven opponents thus far, and the Big Green know they can take nothing for granted.
Tonight at 7:30 p.m., Dartmouth opens their ECAC campaign against the very experienced and savvy Union Skating Dutchmen. "Men" is the operative component of Union's mascot as almost half their squad is composed of seniors.
Combining Union's experience with their team speed, and quality goaltending, the Dutchmen appear to be a formidable opponent. They enter tonight's game at 1-2, having dropped one goal games to the University of New Hampshire and Merrimak, and disposing of Providence 2-0.
Dartmouth will look to shut down senior forward John Sicinski, who has lit the lamp four times in only six shots on goal. However, the Skating Dutchmen are only averaging two goals a game, which means if Dartmouth's offense can go on a tear as it did in the second period against Army, the Big Green could find themselves in front to stay.
Coach Roger Demment specifically mentioned the play of the white line as a crucial element for the Big Green to succeed tonight. Bobby Cancelli forms the meat of this Retter sandwich, as brothers Charlie '98 and Brent '97 wing the shifty center. With their good size and exceptional speed, they'll look to break down the Dutchmen defense.
"I think our job is to set the tempo for the game by going out, playing physical, and getting in the other team's face," Cancelli said. "We like to bang and turn those situations into scoring opportunities by letting the other team know when we're on the ice."
However, they will have to put the puck past junior goalie Trevor Koenig, who is only giving up two goals per game.
Dartmouth will look to out hit Union, build momentum early, and convert on more of its power plays than last weeks one for nine effort. If the Big Green can pepper Koenig with numerous shots early on, they will look for him to break down later in the game and give up a few goals.
Looking ahead to Saturday night, the Big Green face a streaking, young RPI team that is coming off big wins over Army and Northeastern. The makeup of this team is the mirror opposite of Union, as 80 percent of the Engineer's roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
RPI has shown the ability to score more than Union, as its 4.33 goals a game average attests. However, the RPI freshmen tandem of goalies is not nearly as proven as Union's Koenig. They have showed steady improvement in each game, though. Dartmouth will look to rattle them early and open up an early lead.
Dartmouth's defense, which played brilliantly against Army last week by allowing no power play goals, will be tested. By keeping pressure on the Engineer defense and not allowing RPI to spend much time in the Big Green zone, Dartmouth should find itself in control. What the Big Green want to avoid is allowing RPI to gain any momentum early by giving up a couple of easy goals.
The puck drops at 7:30 both nights.
The Big Green would also like to notify fans that the University of Vermont game at home in two weeks on Nov. 22 is already near selling out. While there are still student tickets left, general admission is now at standing room only. UVM is currently ranked first in the nation and is expecting a large following.