Signs of brilliance shone Saturday

by D.J. Gelner | 11/22/04 6:00am

Call off the FBI. Stop combing the area. It appears men's hockey coach Bob Gaudet has finally found some line combinations that work.

After coping with the season-ending injury to star winger Hugh Jessiman '06, many of the Big Green faithfuls were becoming fed up with the inconsistent play of the makeshift lines thrown on the ice.

But Saturday night at Thompson Arena, it all finally seemed to click. Captain Lee Stempniak '05 converted an excellent Mike Oulette pass from the slot. The third and fourth lines put in a yeoman's effort, crashing the net like Michael Moore descends on an all-you-can-eat buffet. The defense was solid, as Ben Lovejoy '07 and Mike Hartwick '07 set the tone with several bone-crushing hits. Sean Offers '06 and Grant Lewis '07 demonstrated good awareness and puck handling. This is the Big Green we've been waiting for.

Goaltender Dan Yacey '05 kept the team afloat during an uninspired stretch in the third period with good save after good save. At one point, he lunged to block a puck, succeeded, and flopped hard, like so many Programming Board events. His only miscue was costly -- a puck handling gaffe that handed Cornell its only goal -- but if Yacey settles down and stays in position, he gives the team a chance to win every time its on the ice.

Now, this is not to say that the team played a perfect game -- far from it. After the Cornell goal, there wasn't a single minute of inspired hockey until the last 1:30 of the third period, when both teams seemed to realize that this was in fact an ECAC, Ivy League contest.

While one realizes that butterfly goalies are more susceptible to five-hole shots, that doesn't mean every shot taken outside the circle should go five-hole, especially against a goalie such as Cornell's David McKee (1.02 GAA, .955 SV%). The Big Green needs to start getting more shots up, either to score outright or in order to deflect them down into the net. Though I also realize that something like 70 to 80 percent of goals are scored along or near the ice, it doesn't hurt to go top shelf a little more often.

To be fair, the Thompson Arena crowd did nothing to help their team through the third period. During the mediocre stretch, I could routinely hear the officials make their calls after the whistle, which is quite frankly unacceptable for a game with such important ramifications. Come on, support your team for crying out loud!

However, in overtime, the crowd finally came alive, and the Big Green showed some life. Thirty seconds in, Oulette was robbed on the doorstep by McKee. The sharks began to smell the blood in the water.

Eric Przepiorka and Tanner Glass had a 2-on-1 stopped by McKee seconds later. At this point, I could've sworn I heard the Jaws theme. Daaa-duhdaa-duhda-duhda-duh. Then, after a turnover forced by Glass and a great outlet pass by Lewis, Przepiorka had a breakaway. He shot once, only to find iron. Unfortunately for McKee, the puck bounced right back to Przepiorka and he simply used his superior stick handling to backhand the puck in. Dartmouth wins, 2-1.

Unfortunately, though, because of the outcome, overtime was that much more frustrating. Where was this sense of urgency in the third period? Why can't the team come up with a big hit to energize the crowd during a quiet stretch? What the hell was the deal with that NBA fight in Detroit on Friday? I mean, is this what happens when your hockey team is locked out, the basketball team has to pick up the slack?

Regardless, there is a hockey team in Hanover, and they finally appear poised to turn their inconsistent season around after an emotional ending to a big Saturday night game.

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