Przepiorka nets game-winner for a Big Green OT victory

by Evan Meyerson | 11/22/04 6:00am

After losing Hugh Jessiman '06 for the season, splitting last weekend's games against mediocre St. Lawrence and Clarkson and starting the year 3-3-0 overall and 2-2-0 in league play, confidence was by no means rampant among the Big Green men's hockey players coming into their most difficult weekend thus far. The prospect of facing off against 16th-ranked Colgate and ninth-ranked Cornell on consecutive nights was undoubtedly foreboding, yet Tanner Glass '07 chose to view it from another angle. "We look at this weekend as an opportunity to prove that we are of the same caliber as these types of teams," said Glass. Even after a demoralizing loss on Friday to Colgate, 2-1, the 2004-2005 men's squad may have done just that.

Friday's contest began with quick penalties by both Colgate and Dartmouth. 3:40 into the first period, Jon Grecu '08 was called for hitting from behind. Thirty seconds later, Colgate capitalized on the power play as junior Kyle Wilson found senior tri-captain Darryl McKinnon in the slot to slap the puck by Dan Yacey '05 to put Colgate up 1-0. Nevertheless, the puck remained in Raiders territory for most of the period; Dartmouth out-shot Colgate 13-7.

At the start of the second frame, Dartmouth flew down the ice with a three-on-one advantage, only to be denied by brilliant glove save of Colgate goalie, senior Steve Silverthorn. Dartmouth showed its strong defense as well whenever Colgate broke into its blue zone. Dartmouth had its fair share of chances during the second period, especially when Colgate was called on two consecutive penalties, essentially giving the Big Green a one-man advantage for four minutes. Still, Dartmouth ended the second period 0-5 on power plays as neither team found the net throughout the entire frame.

Five minutes into the third period, Dartmouth finally came through on a power play opportunity. As a scrum ensued in front of the Colgate net, Glass shot the puck past Silverthorn to tie the game. He was assisted by Sean Offers '06 and Garret Overlock '06. Dartmouth was rejuvenated for all of six minutes before freshman Tyler Burton deked Yacey and scored, deflating the Big Green completely.

Dartmouth had a number of good looks during the final seven minutes, as Colgate moved to a preventive game plan instead of its previously aggressive tactics. The crowd of 4,000 rose to its feet when coach Bob Gaudet pulled Yacey out of the net, obviously prepping for one last offensive. Unfortunately, it was not to be for the Big Green. The 2-1 loss pushed Dartmouth under the .500 mark in league play.

Once again, Dartmouth out-shot the opposition (29-15) in a loss. "We are playing so well in so many facets of the game, I just can't put my finger on why we're not scoring," said Gaudet after the loss. "We are a championship-caliber team, and breaks will even out."

Glass continued, "We're working hard, creating chances -- that's all we can do. But there is definitely some frustration. In my opinion we've played well enough to win every game this season."

Mike Hartwick '07 explained that "everyone's down a little bit, but tomorrow [against Cornell] we'll bounce back." Hartwick's statement would prove quite accurate.

Cornell came to Hanover on Saturday unbeaten in ECACHL play, sporting a 2-0 record and a national ranking of ninth. The first period saw stalwart defense on each side of the ice until 16:47, when captain Lee Stempniak '05 finally solved Cornell sophomore goalie David McKee, putting the Big Green up 1-0. The exciting back and forth play continued until 13 minutes into the second period.

At 13:20 in the second frame, Big Red junior Chris Abbott knocked in the equalizer, after finding a floating puck in front of the Big Green net. Yacey got a glove on Mark McCutcheon's initial shot-on-goal, only to deflect the puck directly to a wide open Abbott. With its lead gone, Dartmouth resorted to less aggressive, more cautious play.

Cornell out-shot the Big Green during the third period, 9-3, for the first time that night. Dartmouth's defense was resilient in the clutch, though, shutting down every Cornell opportunity. Neither team scored in an exhilarating and nerve-racking period. The game shifted to overtime.

Dartmouth was not victorious in overtime since Nov. 26, 2002. Consequently, anxiety in the stands was virtually tangible. As the extra frame progressed, the crowd rose to its feet and groaned with every Dartmouth miss, and collectively exhaled in a loud wave of sound each time Cornell came close to scoring. With two minutes remaining, Dartmouth found that glorious "break" to which Gaudet had alluded the previous night.

After Cornell misplayed a pass at its own blue line, Eric Przepiorka '06 fired a shot towards a waiting McKee. As the puck slammed the post, making the dreaded "pinging" noise of failure, almost every fan in Thompson arena jumped up in unison, screaming. The puck somehow found its way back to Przepiorka's stick, and as silence filled the air for an instant while Dartmouth fans held their breaths in anticipation, the Big Green '06 scored the winning goal. Przepiorka's teammates mobbed the forward on the ice at the completion of the most electrifying period and thrilling game of Dartmouth's young season. The win brought the Big Green back to even on the season, 4-4 (3-3 ECACHL). Cornell fell to 4-2-1 (2-1-1 ECACHL).

Dartmouth men's hockey has put itself back in a position for success, moving into fourth place in point totals in the ECACHL. Next Saturday at Thompson is the Big Green square-off against the 12th-ranked perennial powerhouse University of Maine (8-6). In order to compete effectively against opponents like Maine, Dartmouth must carry the momentum from its Cornell triumph into next weekend, and hopefully throughout the rest of the year.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!