This was supposed to be the ideal opening weekend of ECAC hockey for Dartmouth. Facing two of the lackluster programs in the league, the Big Green were looking to build on an impressive opening season victory over Army. But as Union and RPI proved, no games can be taken for granted in this gritty league where every game counts -- especially on the home ice.
The Big Green were manhandled in the third period by Union, losing 7-3 on Friday night and couldn't fight back from a 4-2 opening period deficit versus RPI, eventually falling 5-4 on Saturday.
Two periods separated Dartmouth from an opening weekend sweep. Yielding four goals in the final period to Union, and then allowing RPI to match that effort in the first period on Saturday night erased the Big Green's otherwise solid effort.
Combining the Big Green's defensive slipups with outstanding third period goal-tending by the opposition only made the losses more painful. Union's Trevor Koenig fought off a Big Green onslaught of 22 third period shots, while RPI's Scott Prekaski held off a hard-charging Dartmouth squad that just couldn't find the back of the net in the waning minutes of Saturday's contest.
Dartmouth was clearly not executing as well as the opposition, having only played one regular season game to Union's three and RPI's four. This was illustrated by the Big Green's disappointing success rate on the power play for the weekend as they converted on three of 18 opportunities.
Dartmouth will try to regroup this week as they prepare for their first road trip next weekend to Colgate and Cornell.
Dartmouth falls to Union 7-3
The Skating Dutchmen brought their 1-2 record into Thompson Arena with something to prove. Ranked 11th in the preseason ECAC polls, this senior-dominated team was determined to set the record straight.
Both sides came out as cold as the playing surface in the opening stanza, as each side traded big hits, but zero goals. Union certainly had its opportunities early, but Scott Baker '97 continued his stellar play from last weekend and single-handedly kept the Big Green in the game, as he stifled Union's offense from point-blank range, recording 12 saves.
The floodgates opened in the second period, but ended once again knotted, this time at 3-3. Union struck first, scoring one of the luckiest goals in the history of its program after Dartmouth's Bill Kelleher's shot from the slot on a two-man advantage caromed back into neutral ice where Union's Jay Prentice just happened to be leaving the penalty box. Taking advantage of a new NCAA rule, he didn't have to tag up at the blue line, and fired a break away wrist shot to Scott Baker's glove side for the unassisted shorthanded goal.
Dartmouth struck next on the power play, as Ryan Burkart '99 fed Kelleher at the top of the slot who fired a shot into the crease. Jon Sturgis '98 cleaned up down low as he powered the puck past Union's Trevor Koenig.
Keeping up the back-and-forth pace, Union was on the board again before one could say "Skating Dutchmen." Just 22 seconds after the Big Green lit the lamp, Union's leading scorer John Sicinski put out Dartmouth's fire with a goal high and stick-side of Baker.
Dartmouth didn't get frustrated though and tied the game once again when Curtis Wilgosh '99 stuffed the puck home at 16:20 off assists from blueliners David Risk '99 and Alex Dumas '97.
Once again, Union wasted no time as it took the lead less than a minute later when Ryan Campbell jammed the puck home off the rebound 17:15 into the period.
With 1:02 remaining, Dartmouth kept up the paddy-cake rhythm of the period, as Bill Kelleher zapped a slapper from the slot into a relatively open net as Koenig's concentration was focused on the left wing. Koenig bit on Wilgosh's move to the net, and apparently thought Wilgosh still had the puck when Kelleher's shot came tearing past him.
It appeared that this one would go down to the wire, but Dartmouth came out flat in the third period, giving up four unanswered goals as its defense broke down, and the offense couldn't convert on two five-on-three situations, or 12 total minutes of Union penalties.
"I think we were lucky to get out of the second period with a 3-3 tie," Coach Roger Demment said. "I thought we started off the third period all right, but then we got undisciplined. It was a combination of playing sloppy hockey, and not executing when we had the opportunities."
Union's Mark Szuks completed the hat trick with two third period goals, and Prentice and Sicinski added their second goals of the game to run away with it.
What was disappointing for the Big Green was the incredible number of shots they recorded, 33 total with 22 on line, without chalking up any goals. The Big Green seemed unable to get the puck up down low, as they kept trying to jam the puck through Koenig.
"They gave us enough chances to get back into the game," Demment said. "A number of times on those five-on-three's we had the puck down on the low slot, and we needed to get it upstairs, but we didn't."
RPI Holds Off For 5-4 Win
After that disastrous third period Demment ran his team through a full practice Saturday morning, and reworked the lines a bit, hoping to mend the previous night's miscues.
While the Big Green eventually got on track in the second period, it was already too late. They gave up four goals in the first period, falling behind 4-2, and just couldn't fight back for the win.
Baker wasn't in his same first period form as the night before when he didn't give the back of the net a chance to breathe.
Things looked good early, as Sturgis once again scored the first goal of the game on a man advantage off a beautiful backhanded stuff with assists coming from Dumas and David Whitworth '98.
The youthful RPI team responded with three unanswered goals to remind everyone in Thompson Arena that this was the same team that knocked off number one ranked UVM the night before.
Dartmouth converted another of its rare power play goals 14:47 into the frame to bring itself back into it. Wilgosh, who was camping out in the crease, recorded his second goal of the weekend on a beautiful backhanded stab off a screen shot from Scott Peach '99 who fed it in from Ryan Poulton '00.
RPI responded with less than two minutes left in the period with a flurry in the crease as Matt Garver managed to knock it through.
The Big Green couldn't bounce back from that first period after allowing RPI's forwards just too many good looks at the net, and not getting bodies on them down low.
Saturday's second period looked a lot like Friday's first, as both sides battled for momentum but couldn't get anything going. It ended the same as it began, 4-2.
Dartmouth mounted a comeback in the third period, but the two goal deficit proved insurmountable in the end. Bobby Cancelli closed the gap to 4-3 at 9:21 into the stanza connecting off a Whitworth rebound, and sending the puck top-shelf, right corner.
With 7:36 remaining, Baker found himself fooled by a well-designed RPI screen shot from the left circle that he only noticed after Mark Murphy had already skidded it by him.
Dartmouth made it interesting again with 3:46 remaining in the game as Poulton unleashed a slapper, from the top of the right circle from a Chaytor's pass, that Jeremiah Buckley '98 got wood on and buried in the net.
The Big Green were forced to pull Baker for the final minute in a desperation attempt at overtime, but couldn't convert. This is where RPI's freshmen goalie Scott Prekaski earned his stripes as he fended off three solid rushes by the Big Green.
"That six-on-five is something we have worked on in practice," Demment said. "We got some excellent chances there at the end, but those are the kind of things that will come with time. They'll come."
Hopefully for the Big Green, they can correct the defensive lapses of this weekend, as they take their 1-2 record to upstate New York next weekend.