Hockey men head to New York in search of respect

by Dan Weinberg | 11/14/03 6:00am

At 2-0-1 (1-0-1 ECAC, 1-0-1 Ivy), the Dartmouth men's hockey team is one of two unbeaten programs this season in Division I. After this weekend, there's a good chance that the Big Green will be the only team with a zero in the loss column.

No. 7 St. Cloud State (7-0-1, 5-01 WCHA) has done damage early, but travels to North Dakota for two games against the No. 1 Fighting Sioux. Dartmouth still needs to prove something to the pollsters, who left them out of the top-15 national rankings, one point behind Michigan State in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll.

Sure, it's early in the season for an Ivy League team that has only played three games and all of them at home in front of healthy crowds. But Dartmouth faced off against two quality teams last weekend and deserves credit for beating one of the nation's top goaltenders in Brown's Yann Danis and coming out even against the now No. 12 Harvard team most picked to take the conference.

Now, the Big Green takes to the road -- for a long, long time. Dartmouth will not see Thompson Arena ice on game night until January 2, 2004 when the team hosts travel partner Vermont in the I-89 showdown. And, for the time being, the team must forget about the three consecutive away games against top 10 teams coming up at the end of this seven game road stretch.

"We're going to be a much better team when we come back," head coach Bob Gaudet '81 said. "We'll be battle-tested and ready. We're a very good team and we're going to surprise some people."

For starters, this young Big Green squad needs to prove that it can go into central N.Y. and take down Union (6-2-1, 1-1-0 ECAC) and Rensselaer (3-3-1, 1-1-0 ECAC) in their own buildings this weekend.

Friday night against the Dutchmen will be the greater challenge for Dartmouth. Last season, then freshman goaltender Kris Mayotte posted a shutout at Thompson Arena, helping Union to a 2-0 victory. In the final game of the regular season, Dartmouth needed yet another game-winning goal by Lee Stempniak '05 to beat the Dutchmen 2-1 on the road and secure home-ice advantage in the ECAC playoffs.

"Like all road games, these ones will be tough, especially Union in their barn," forward Hugh Jessiman '06 said. "It's a small rink and everything happens so fast there."

Last year, the Big Green took the previous year's postseason disappointment out on RPI after a 2-1 loss to the Engineers in Lake Placid. Dartmouth put up seven goals on Rensselaer -- twice -- sweeping the series by scores of 7-1 and 7-3.

The Big Green will ride Dan Yacey '05 in net, who has already tripled his win total from last season. His .930 save percentage and 1.30 goals against average are among the best in the conference. Stempniak, already tied for second in conference goal scoring, will likely provide the fireworks on offense.

"RPI should also be a good battle," Jessiman said, "They have a good young team and will be strong up front. As usual, it is going to take a strong effort from Yacey up to the forwards for us to have an opportunity to win. We're on the road for a good while after this weekend so it is important to start off the road swing on the right track."

Florida Panthers' draft pick Tanner Glass '07, who has an assist in his only appearance this season, is out with mononucleosis. Darcy Marr '06 was also sidelined against Harvard with a minor arm injury, but should be back soon. Dan Shribman '07 and Matt Kunman '07 have seen playing time on the right wing in their absence, and should continue to see time as the puck drops at 7 p.m. tonight in Union's Achilles Rink, and tomorrow night in RPI's Houston Field House.