Men's hockey seeks first victory in weekend homestand
Three consecutive losses would not have been an ideal start to Dartmouth hockey's centennial season. However, the Big Green can transform its recent woes into a true centennial commemoration with victories this weekend over two nationally-ranked opponents. Dartmouth will welcome No. 17 Colgate (5-1-1, ECACHL 2-0) and No. 3 Cornell (3-1, ECACHL 2-0) to Thompson Arena for the 2005-06 home opener.
While Friday's contest against Colgate represents an arduous assignment for the Big Green, the real test comes the following evening as Dartmouth will face-off against Cornell -- the clear favorite in the ECACHL and the No. 2 team in last year's NCAA Championship Tournament.
According to captain Mike Ouellette '06, it's a challenge his team needs to become a better team. "It's a great opportunity for us to gain some confidence against some really good opponents," he said. "I'm happy we're facing top quality teams because it will force us to bring our A game, something that I don't think we've done yet this season."
The Big Red is one of the nation's most steady offensive forces. Cornell fronts eleven players who have recorded two or more points in the team's first four games, and 17 skaters who have at least one. Dartmouth, conversely, has four players with two or more points in three games and 10 players who have scored overall. If the Big Red continues to function on all cylinders at Thompson, Dartmouth will certainly have its hands full.
Colgate has showcased a similarly high-octane offense to the one that landed the surprising Raiders in the NCAA Tournament last season. Colgate has averaged more than four goals a game in all seven of its contests thus far. More significantly, there are seven Raiders averaging at least one point per game this season, giving Colgate a prolific and, many times, overwhelming sense of balance.
Opponents have had enough trouble fending off senior forward Kyle Wilson. The Toronto native has notched eight goals and twelve points total in Colgate's first seven games. Wilson's notable success has only been enhanced by six other teammates with at least eight points.
In order to compete with such acclaimed offensive attacks, Dartmouth's defense will have to clamp down on its slight trend of allowing the opposition to rally after being down early. The Big Green has held initial leads in two of its three losses, once against Harvard and the other time versus Quinnipiac.
Defenseman Garret Overlock '06 says the key to corralling these two powerful offenses is for the Big Green to look within. "What's most important for us is not to worry too much about our opponents or their records," he said. "We have been making some simple mistakes in the first few weeks, and by keeping things simple on the ice, we feel that good things will follow."
Overlock and Grant Lewis '07 will look to lock-down both opponents' potent offenses with improved and swift coverage on breakaways towards the Dartmouth end. Fellow defensemen Sean Offers '06 and Ben Lovejoy '08 will hopefully continue protecting goalie Sean Samuel '07 while, at the same time, providing teammates with timely assists. If the Big Green defense finally clicks this weekend, there is no doubt that the team's already publicized offensive potential will closely follow suit.
The main ingredient to defensive progress will be Samuel. The junior netminder has admittedly struggled over the course of Dartmouth's first three games, allowing an alarming 5.23 goals per game. Head coach Bob Gaudet has pulled his starting goalie twice thus far, and Samuel will look to end his recent futility Friday night when he takes the ice against Colgate.
On a more celebratory note, members of Dartmouth's 1942 national championship team as well as Big Green greats Ed Roewer '44, Jack Riley '44 and Duke Dushame '43 will participate in pre-game festivities on Friday, including an honorary puck drop prior to face-off.
With all of their offensive might and nationally-recognized potential, Big Green icers recognize that an 0-5 start would most likely be too deep a hole from which to recover if they have any hopes of an NCAA berth come March. One thing is for sure: a great deal is at stake this weekend against first class opposition. Dartmouth certainly does not have an easy road ahead, but this group of wily veterans has proven itself before and has the skill to do it again. The truest test of their resolve begins with the Raiders on Friday at 7 p.m. and continues with the Big Red on Saturday starting at the same time.