Men's hockey beats Colgate 5-2, loses tight game to Cornell 1-0

by Sam Stockton | 2/21/16 6:30pm

The men’s hockey team split a pair of weekend games, surging past Colgate University for a 5-2 victory on Friday night before falling 1-0 to Cornell University on senior night. The Big Green’s conference record of 11-9-0 (14-12-1 overall) is good for a tie for fifth in the ECAC.

On Friday night, the team rode a dominating first period to victory at Thompson Arena. The Big Green outshot the Raiders 13-7 in the frame and generated a 3-0 lead.

Throughout the game, Dartmouth’s lineup of Jack Barre ’16, Carl Hesler ’18 and Corey Kalk ’18 took charge, combining for four goals and four assists on the night. After Grant Opperman ’17 opened the scoring, Kalk was able to deposit his own rebound in the back of the net. With under a minute to play in the first, Kalk and Barre took advantage of an ill-timed Colgate line change, and Kalk fed Barre, who proceeded to lift a backhand past Colgate netminder Charlie Finn.

Head coach Bob Gaudet ’81 noted Kalk’s contribution of two goals strong play from center Hesler and left winger Barre.

“They’re strong physically, they’re tough, they kill penalties, and Jack plays on the power play,” Gaudet said. “They are key players for us. Corey plays with a lot of pace, and Jack and Hes dominate down low.”

Kalk, who replaced an injured Kevin Neiley ’18 on the Hesler line, emphasized the privilege of playing with two of the Big Green’s best forwards.

“Jack and Carl are having career years, so all I was trying to do was create some energy for them,” Kalk said. “[I wanted to] get some speed on their line and take control of the other team’s top line, and we managed to do that. We managed to get the puck deep, get some bounces, and capitalize. It’s unreal playing with those guys, and that’s how it goes when you work hard.”

For much of the second period, the Big Green continued to carry the play. Late in the period, Kalk netted his second goal of the night, extending the lead to 4-0. The Raiders finally answered with Evan Peterson and Tylor Spink beating James Kruger ’16 in short succession to cut the lead to 4-2.

“There were some careless mistakes, particularly not back-checking well, and that sometimes results in a goal,” Kalk said. “We weathered the storm after we got a little careless not getting pucks deep. All in all, we stuck to our game. Like coach says, we stick to our process, we win the game.”

Gaudet again turned to the Hesler line to grab momentum back early in the game’s final stanza.

“It’s a funny game, and you have to just move on,” Gaudet said. “After the second period, you just don’t let the other team’s momentum carry on by going into the third period and Hesler’s line starts. We get play down in their end, and then the next line comes out. The tone is set, and we’re just playing a new game in the third period. Let’s win this next battle.”

Gaudet said that shifts are important to the game and the team only lost one, building on that advantage throughout the entire period and allowing the Big Green to maintain control of the game.

In the final 20 minutes, the Big Green held their opponents to just five shots, and Hesler took advantage of an empty net with two seconds remaining to cement a 5-2 victory.

The following night, the Big Green were unable to solve Cornell goaltender Mitch Gillam, who authored a 33-save shutout and caused a disappointing Senior Day defeat.

“I thought we played well for much of it, but we weren’t able to come through,” Gaudet said. “It’s a one-nothing game. I give our guys credit, I think they played their asses off. Our kids played their asses off from the goalie on out, they just weren’t able to convert.”

Despite the disappointing result, captain Brad Schierhorn ’16 said he was pleased with the way his team played.

“I have no issues with the way we played,” he said. “We played our hearts out all night and had lots of chances. You definitely have to give their goalie credit.”

The game’s lone goal came early in the second period, when Cornell center Jeff Kubiak utilized a beautiful toe drag, before rifling a shot past Charles Grant ’16. Even in the losing effort, Grant was perhaps the Big Green’s best player, stopping 20 shots and keeping the Big Green in a game that, despite its low score, featured plenty of offense.

“[Grant] played great,” Schierhorn said. “He’s been playing great ever since Christmas, and tonight was just another example. He made those key saves when we needed him, and he was just a rock all night.”

For the Big Green, the best chance of the night came midway through the third when two Cornell skaters were whistled for minor penalties on the same play, prompting a two-minute five-on-three advantage.

“It’s a huge opportunity, and we didn’t make good of it,” Gaudet said. “We have to be better there, there’s no question about it. It’s obviously a crucial situation, and a lot of pressure on the guys. They’re trying to move pucks, and they’re trying to do the right things. They’re playing on some good adrenaline, we just had to calm that down, and we weren’t able to do it.”

In an opportunity that clearly had the potential to change the course of the game, the team struggled to control the puck in their offensive zone and generate chances.

“We couldn’t really connect well, and we didn’t really bear down and make a play,” Brett Patterson ’16 said. “We didn’t make many hard plays, and it came back to bite us.”

As Gaudet explained, despite the low score, the game was certainly an exciting one.

“The purist might say there’s not really a ton of offense,” he said. “That was a classic college hockey game. Fifteen years ago playing Cornell it’s the same game. We win one-to-nothing or we lose one-to-nothing.”

One bright spot in an otherwise disappointing affair was Connor Dempsey ’16’s presence in the line-up. Dempsey, a senior from Winthrop, Massachusetts, had not played since the 26 games he suited up for in his sophomore season before finally getting his chance in the Class of 2016’s final regular season game at Thompson.

“He’s what college athletics is about,” Gaudet said. “I love the kid. You talk about the things you can control — your work ethic, your attitude, and your preparation — that kid is prepared every single day. He comes out to goalie practice to help our goalies get better. He makes our guys work. He’s a good hockey player. I just absolutely love the kid, and there was no doubt that he was playing tonight. He’s what Dartmouth hockey is about.”

Gaudet was not the only part of the team to celebrate Dempsey’s role on the team.

“He’s a guy who comes every day, puts his head down and works hard with a smile on,” Patterson said. “It’s great to see him out there. He’s one of my best friends, and he’s going to be one of my lifelong friends. We love having him out there, and we love having him in the lineup. He’s a big character guy, and he’s respected by everyone.”

Gaudet also took a moment to commemorate his senior class as a whole, saying that the group has added and will continue to add a lot to the program.

“They’ve led by example,” Gaudet said. “They’re very different personalities, but they mesh very well together. They’ve done a good job of keeping our team together and taking the young guys under their wing.”

The Big Green has now arrived at a crucial moment in their season. The top four seeds in the ECAC tournament receive a first round bye, and the currently fifth-placed Big Green would slip past St. Lawrence University for fourth place with a pair of wins next weekend. Dartmouth plays St. Lawrence in Canton, New York on Friday before facing off against Clarkson University on Saturday.

“We’ve been saying the last three weeks that we’re in a playoff mindset,” Schierhorn said. “Especially now since that first round bye is so close. These next two games are going to be playoff games.”