Hockey takes on Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend

by Sam Stockton | 1/14/16 6:32pm

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Laura Stacey '16 scored an unassisted goal 30 seconds into her second match back from playing in the Nations Cup.
by Seamore Zhu / The Dartmouth

The men’s hockey team looks to build on its strong start to 2016 this weekend, with games against Clarkson Universtiy and St. Lawrence University at home. The women’s team will go on the road to play the same two teams this weekend.

The men’s team is playing its best hockey of the season in the new year, and there is ample reason for optimism when the Golden Knights and the Saints come to Thompson Arena.

The team’s record on the season is 6-8-1, but its last few wins, including two to win the 27th Ledyard Classic, indicate an imminent upswing.

“In all aspects of the game — offense, defense and specialty teams — our kids are zoned in and focused,” head coach Bob Gaudet ’81 said. “We’re getting better, and that’s all I ask as a coach.”

This season, the Big Green has found much more success at Thompson than on the road. The team has scored 3.67 goals-per-game in front of its home fans compared to just 1.44 goals-per-game on enemy ice. The defensive numbers tell a similar story. The Big Green allow just 2.83 goals-per-game on home ice, but surrender 3.56 goals-per-game on the road.

In the team’s first four games of 2016, three of which have been at home, the Big Green are 3-1 scoring 13 goals and allowing just four along the way. The team’s back-to-back victories over Robert Morris University and Merrimack College earned them the Ledyard Classic title. In 2016, the Big Green’s penalty kill is a perfect 9-for-9, and goaltender Charles Grant ’16 boasts a stellar .960 save percentage.

“We’ve had the same work ethic, but we’re a more mature team,” Gaudet said. “We start the season with the toughest Division 1 schedule in the country, and we played really hard, but we were inconsistent. Coming into the new year, we’ve learned a lot.”

Gaudet added that the team has been emphasizing both its consistency and strength on defense. Becoming a strong defensive team will increase the amount of time Dartmouth has the puck, contributing to offensive ability. Gaudet’s players echoed his focus on building a strong defensive game.

“We want to be one of the best defensive teams in the league,” Jack Barre ’16 said. “That’s something we talk about all the time, and we want to keep the goals to less than two a night.”

Gaudet pointed to a 1-0 loss to the University of Vermont, their sole setback of 2016, as a crucial moment in the season. He added that while the Big Green lost, the game may have been the team’s best performance thus far this season.

“I thought we were excellent at Vermont in terms of the way we want to play,” he said. “The only thing I’m disappointed in is the score. I thought we were outstanding in that game.”

The Big Green takes on Clarkson on Friday night before squaring off with St. Lawrence on Saturday. Last Tuesday, Clarkson pulled off a 3-1 victory over rival St. Lawrence at home, giving the Golden Knights their first ECAC win of the season. While Clarkson is coming off perhaps the pinnacle of its season, St. Lawrence finds itself at its low point. The Saints have just two wins in their last six games.

“They’re both good teams,” Gaudet said. “Clarkson is typically a big, strong, tough team. They’re hard to play against. They make it hard to get to the net, and they’re coming off a big win against their rivals. St. Lawrence is very explosive. They’re a fast-skating, offensive team. So they’re two really strong opponents but very different teams.”

While the men’s team is playing its best hockey of the season, the Dartmouth women’s hockey team finds itself stuck in its worst stretch of the season. The team will, like the men’s team, take on Clarkson on Friday and St. Lawrence on Saturday, but both of their match-ups will be on the road.

The team has currently dropped their last nine contests, with their last win coming on Nov. 14 against Union College. Throughout that stretch, the Big Green has struggled with injuries, and several key players have missed time. The team is healthier than it has been in some time but is still not operating at 100 percent.

Head coach Mark Hudak mentioned that the team will still be missing Tess Bracken ’19, while Hailey Noronha ’18 will return after missing a couple of weekends. Hudak added that Brooke Ahbe ’18will also return, but she is not quite at full strength. The team is getting healthier but is not yet at full form.

The power play has struggled in recent games. Last weekend, the team scored just one goal in eight tries with the man (or woman) advantage. On Saturday afternoon, a Cornell University shorthanded goal late in the second period proved costly in a 5-3 defeat.

Hudak attributed some of the team’s struggles to injuries and health issues, adding that it was difficult to be successful when some players haven’t gotten the chance to play with each other yet this season, especially on power plays.

“We’ve had to piece together power play units,” Hudak said. “Sometimes we’re putting those units on the ice, and all five of them haven’t practiced together. On the power play, so much of that is timing and reading off of one another and knowing what that person is going to do and where this person is going to be.”

Hudak provided a similar scouting report for Clarkson and St. Lawrence’s women’s teams as Gaudet did for their men’s sides. He said that Clarkson is a very good, physical team with a lot of depth and confidence, and St. Lawrence is similarly talented.

“[St. Lawrence has had] some really big wins, and they’ve had some disappointing losses,” said Hudak. “Some of it will be, ‘what team are we going to end up facing this Saturday?’”

As frustration mounts during his team’s current skid, Hudak advocated a simple, fast-paced approach to snap that losing streak this weekend.

“I think we need to try to push the pace and play a very up-tempo game,” he said. “I think we need to be very aggressive out there on the ice. I think we’ve got to do the little things, all of the little things, right. We can’t try to do too much, but we need to do enough for us to be successful.”

With that message in mind, the Big Green will travel to upstate New York hoping to get back into the win column.