Men's Hockey Sticks It To Cornell
It took four losses and a number of unlucky breaks for Dartmouth men's hockey to finally achieve a victory -- and what a win it was. After falling to Colgate on Friday 3-2 in a loss marked by missed opportunities and early miscues, the Big Green stormed back on Saturday to dismantle the No. 3 team in the nation 6-1 in what was certainly Dartmouth's most dominating offensive outburst in recent history.
Whether or not their win over Cornell can serve to turn the tide of four doleful outings remains to be seen, but for one night Dartmouth certainly returned to national-contender form.
Two goals by offensive standout Nick Johnson '08 and three points from Eric Przepiorka '06 would make up for a heartbreaking loss to Colgate on Friday night, giving the Big Green a much needed boost during a woeful start to the season.
The Raiders of Colgate (6-2, ECACHL 3-1), ranked No. 17 in the country, jumped out quickly to a 2-0 advantage by the 1:04 mark of the second period on Friday, capitalizing on some lackadaisical play by the Big Green. Colgate's second goal was a gift handed to them at Dartmouth's own blue line when sophomore forward Tyler Burton intercepted a pass by Garret Overlock '06. Burton moved quickly towards the net and beat Mike Devine '08 to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead.
Devine was making his first start of the season, replacing the struggling Sean Samuel '07. Samuel had allowed more than five goals per game, making it a necessary substitution for head coach Bob Gaudet. "I think, overall, Mike played well tonight, especially in the last two periods," said Gaudet.
Dartmouth got on the board with 6:54 left in the second period when David Jones '08 slapped a shot from the point past netminder Mark Dekanich, cutting the lead in half. The crowd of 4,155 jumped to its feet, hoping to propel Dartmouth to turn the game, and its season, around. While the Big Green skated with significantly more energy throughout the remainder of the contest, shots refused to drop for the Dartmouth icers. After falling down 3-1 on what Gaudet called "an NHL-caliber shot" by senior center Kyle Wilson, who leads Colgate with an astounding ten goals in nine games. J.T. Wyman '08 answered back midway through the third period. The sophomore forward found the right side of the net wide open after a shot by Przepiorka rebounded directly to his stick and pulled Dartmouth within one goal.
A barrage of shots on goal by the Big Green was for naught, as Dartmouth fell 3-2 to the Raiders. The Big Green overwhelmingly outshot Colgate 44-21, but only managed to find the back of the net twice.
"It was easily our best offensive effort of our first four games," said Gaudet. "We can't ask for much more than 40-plus shots and seven power play opportunities -- the goals just didn't come."
"On any other night, we would have scored six goals after playing like we did," said the coach, quite prophetically.
Captain Mike Ouellette '06 attributed the defeat to a slow start. "We waited too late before coming with our game. We aren't bearing down on the intricacies of the game, like last efforts in front of the net," said the British Columbia-native after the loss.
Whether fueled by frustration, desperation, or a combination of the two, the Big Green made their captain and coach both look brilliant the following night. Facing No. 3 and Ivy League rival Cornell (4-2, ECACHL 3-1), Dartmouth flew out of the gates quickly, easily managed the "intricacies" that had previously plagued them and, of course, scored six goals.
On the first power play for the Big Green 10-minutes into the opening period, the Dartmouth special teams emphatically set the tone for the rest of the night. Tanner Glass '07 potted the rebound of a Przepiorka slapper, giving Dartmouth a 1-0 lead.
With six minutes left in the first, it looked as if Cornell was on the verge of a momentum-swing as junior Byron Bitz fired a shot past Devine on a Cornell power play to knot the game at one. Nevertheless, rather than drop their heads like most 0-4 teams might, Dartmouth transformed itself into a rapacious force. Ironically, it would be two of the team's youngest players who would provoke this conversion. Only 1:35 after Cornell tied the game, Kevin Swallow '09 took the puck from the side of the net towards Big Red goalie David McKee. The freshman shoveled a gorgeous pass towards his awaiting linemate Ryan Bellows '09. The "freshmen connection" worked to perfection and the Big Green was on top for good.
"There was definitely some pressure relieved after scoring my first goal," said Bellows. When asked about the difficulty of working with a mostly rookie line, the freshman pointed to "natural chemistry." "We're all young and just trying to learn to play together. It definitely helps to have so much talent around you, though," said Bellows.
Dan Shribman '07 capped off a tremendous first period when the junior went top-shelf on a delayed penalty situation with a little more than one minute remaining. The 3-1 advantage gave Dartmouth all the confidence it would need.
Dartmouth finished off Cornell within the first five minutes of the second period. Nick Johnson '08, last season's leading goal-scorer, finally got on track in a big way. The third-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins scored his second and third goals of the season during the frame, his first one on a power play and his second shorthanded. In between Johnson's offensive outbursts, Przepiorka netted a power play score of his own. After an uneventful third period, the final tally read 6-1 in favor of the previously struggling Big Green.
"We've been working real hard," said Johnson after the game. "It's nice to finally get shots in the net and get a win. It's definitely relieving."
Gaudet agreed, saying, "Tonight was a big win. We played with so much passion and pride, it was a fabulous game. It's always great to get the first one, especially against the third-ranked team. "
"Before tonight, we were kind of working on blind faith -- that the guys should just trust the system and that it would work eventually," said Gaudet. "It's great for our team to see their hard work pay off in a real way."
Gaudet promises to prepare his players in the same fashion as he does any other week. "We prepare the same way and always work towards simply playing our game each and every weekend," said the coach, referring to next weekend's match-ups against Ivy-adversaries Brown and Yale. Both games will be played at Thompson Arena, starting with Brown on Friday at 7 p.m.