Sans Nardella, title-hungry men's icers bound for Provy

by David Sherzer | 2/7/02 6:00am

A little rest and some clarity -- that is what this weekend will provide for the Dartmouth men's hockey team.

The Big Green has a rare one-game slate this weekend, taking on Brown in an important Ivy League and ECAC affair tomorrow night in Providence.

The one gamer will give the team an extra day of rest to mend some of its bruises and will also help the typically chaotic ECAC standings come more into focus.

Dartmouth (10-8-4, 7-4-4 ECAC) currently has 18 points and is tied for second place with Harvard and Clarkson -- five points behind Cornell -- but the Big Green and Crimson have played 15 games, while the other 10 teams in the league have played only 14.

This weekend, Dartmouth and Harvard each play once while the other 10 play twice, which will level out the games-played category and help everyone -- the title-seeking Big Green included -- know where they stand.

"This weekend may add clarity in terms of which teams are near the top of the standings and which are near the bottom," co-captain Mike Maturo '02 said. "But I think, like every year, it will be a battle until the end. I think we'll be right up there with Cornell."

If Dartmouth is going to beat Brown tomorrow night, Maturo likely will be a major part of it.

The senior winger has an eye-popping 15 points (10g, 5a) in seven career games against the Bears, including a hat trick in Dartmouth's 6-3 win at Thompson Arena on Nov. 9.

With 29 points (13g, 16a), Maturo is leading a Big Green squad that has combined for six of a possible eight points over the last two weekends. The points have not come easy, though. In all four of those games -- two against Union, two against Rensselaer -- Dartmouth was trailing at some point in the third period before coming back.

Essentially, the Big Green has remained in the thick of the title hunt even though it has not picked up a comfortable win since a 5-2 triumph over Vermont on Jan. 4.

"As long as we keep winning games, I don't mind," left winger Chris Taliercio '02 said. "I don't particularly like comebacks. I'd like to see us play a full 60 minutes. There are no easy wins, but it would be nice if we could work hard for an entire game and make it look easy."

Taliercio and linemate Chris Baldwin '02 will have a new center this weekend, as Frank Nardella '02 will be home in Chicagoland attending to family obligations. New Jersey native Dan Casella '02 will take his place, moving up from the checking line.

"Not having Frankie is a big loss, but I will try to fill his shoes the best I can," said Casella, who returned last weekend from a shoulder injury.

"I wasn't sure what they were going to do, but I'm happy they put Danny in there," said Taliercio, who also hails from the Garden State. "He doesn't get enough credit for being as offensively gifted as he is. I played against him growing up and I look forward to playing with him on Friday. No matter what, I know he's going to work hard."

The Big Green will need its best effort against a somewhat paradoxical Brown team, which sits in 11th place but has earned national recognition for itself and the league by beating strong opponents such as second-ranked St. Cloud, Wisconsin and UMass-Lowell.

Like Dartmouth, Brown is goal-tending rich and will be very intent on picking up two points in the standings.

"Brown is an excellent team," head coach Bob Gaudet '81 said. "They are skilled and are very good in goal.

"I think after this weekend, there will be an indication of where we sit and where other teams sit in the league," Gaudet added. "But there is plenty of hockey left to be played."