Hockey set to face Union and RPI

by Taylor Malmsheimer | 2/9/12 11:00pm

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02.10.12.sports.hockey
by Yomalis Rosario and Yomalis Rosario / The Dartmouth

After battling Princeton University to a 3-3 tie last Friday and a tough one-goal loss to Quinnipiac University on Saturday, the Big Green men (9-8-2, 6-5-1 ECAC, 2-2-1 Ivy) said they are glad to be returning to their home rink. Dartmouth is currently ranked third in the Ivy League and seventh in the ECAC conference. The Big Green is 6-4-2 at home this season and seems to fare slightly better at Thompson Arena than on the road.

Coach Bob Gaudet expressed the team's excitement about playing at home during Winter Carnival in front of the team's committed fans.

"It's great to play in Winter Carnival at home," Gaudet said. "The atmosphere at Winter Carnival is electric. We have great fans. The student support and the support in the community has been just awesome." Dartmouth has dealt with a number of injuries this season. Forward Dustin Walsh '13, one of the Big Green's highest scorers last year, has only played in eight games this season due to injury. Gaudet, however, remains confident in his team and their ability to persevere.

"We've had some injury troubles, but I'm proud of our guys because they've battled so hard," he said.

The Big Green will face Union (16-6-7, 10-3-4 ECAC) on Friday in what should be a competitive game. In their first meeting this season, Union prevailed 7-1. Union is currently first in the ECAC and ranked No. 11 in the country by USA Hockey Magazine. The Dutchmen have won seven out of their last nine games and defeated No. 20 Colgate University 3-1 last weekend before tying Cornell 4-4 in a hard-fought battle.

"[Union] is an excellent team," Gaudet said. "They're very deep in terms of their talent."

Union took home two of the top weekly awards in the ECAC this past week. Junior forward Wayne Simpson was named ECAC Player of the Week after scoring two goals in the win against Colgate on Friday night and notching a goal and an assist against Cornell on Saturday. Freshman defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was named ECAC Rookie of the Week after recording assists on five of Union's eight goals last weekend.

"It's those guys and more [players], but I like our team," Gaudet said. "Our team really battles hard and we have to focus and keep battling. We can have control over how hard we work, our attitude and our work in practice. We're focusing on working on what we can control."

Following the Friday game against Union, Dartmouth welcomes Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (7-18-2, 4-9-2 ECAC) to Thompson Arena on Saturday night. The first time the Big Green faced RPI this season, it pulled out a 4-3 victory. RPI is currently in last place in the ECAC conference. Last week, it battled Cornell to a 2-2 tie on Friday before losing to Colgate, 8-3, on Saturday. RPI is coming off a four-game home stand in which it went 1-2-1.

Sophomore forward Brock Higgs and junior defensemen Nick Bailen lead the Engineers in scoring. Higgs has one goal and 16 assists this season, while Bailen has recorded five goals and 11 assists.

Gaudet said the team would work on all aspects of its game to prepare for both contests this weekend.

"Both teams are really good, and on Friday night we're playing one of the top teams in the country," Gaudet said. "We're focusing on continuing to play hard and continuing to keep the game simple. Our focus is to play 60 minutes of really solid hockey."

Currently sitting in seventh place in the ECAC, Dartmouth is in the middle of the pack in the 12-team league. Last year, the Big Green was one of the top four teams in the division and received a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Dartmouth hopes to close out the season by making a push to be one of the top four teams again.

"The [league] that we play [in] is probably the top Division-I league in the country, so everyone is good," Gaudet said. "We're trying to make a push so that we are playing our best hockey down the stretch and get as high as we can on the standings. We want to be playing our best hockey at the end of the year during the playoffs."

The Dartmouth women (15-7-2, 11-5-2 ECAC, 4-3-1 Ivy) also play Union and RPI this weekend but do not have the luxury of playing at home. The Big Green, however, has demonstrated the ability to win on the road, going 9-1-2 on opponents' rinks this season.

"We travel down Thursday and at practice [on Friday] we kind of zone into the game a little more," captain Kelly Foley '12 said. "It's actually kind of nice being off campus [because] there's a lot less distractions."

The Big Green suffered a heartbreaking loss to Princeton University last Friday before redeeming itself in a 4-1 win over Quinnipiac on Saturday. Dartmouth is currently third in the Ivy League and fourth in the ECAC conference.

On Friday, the Big Green travels to Schenectady, N.Y. to take on the Union Dutchwomen (4-22-4, 2-14-2 ECAC). In their first meeting this season, Dartmouth prevailed with a 3-2 win. Union is currently 11th in the ECAC and is coming off a tough stretch after registering a 3-0 loss to Colgate and a 5-1 loss at Cornell last weekend.

Union is a young team led by two freshmen and a senior. Freshmen forwards Bryanne Panchuk and Christine Valente both have five goals and six assists, while senior defender Dania Simmonds has 10 assists.

Dartmouth will then visit Troy, N.Y. to play RPI (8-18-4, 5-11-2 ECAC) on Saturday. The Engineers are ninth in the ECAC and are coming off two losses to Colgate and Cornell last weekend. They lost 3-0 against the Big Red before falling to the Raiders in a hard-fought 3-2 loss the following day. In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Dartmouth came out victorious by a score of 4-2. RPI will be facing the Big Green in the last game of their season, giving the squad plenty of incentive to play with passion and intensity.

The Engineers are led by sophomore forward Jordan Smelker, who has ten goals and 15 assists this season. Freshman forward Eleeza Cox is also a main contributor to the team, with 12 goals and nine assists.

To prepare for both teams, coach Mark Hudak said that the Big Green will not change anything systematically. Dartmouth will instead focus on keeping its intensity up and playing fast.

"Monday was an up-tempo practice, and that's going to be our focus for a lot of the week," Hudak said. "We're really going to be approaching both games with that attitude of, We want to attack the opponent' We're very focused on ourselves and we can use our speed."

Hudak said that the team's goal is to get into the postseason with home ice advantage.

"If we continue to play well the next four games, [home advantage] looks good for us," he said. "I'm looking forward to the weekend. It should be a good road trip. I'm looking forward to playing with a lot of energy."

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