No. 20 men’s hockey splits Ivy road games

by Sam Stockton | 2/7/16 6:30pm

2-8-16-sports-mhockey-seamorezhu
Men's hockey split its Ivy road games.
by Seamore Zhu / The Dartmouth

No. 20 Dartmouth men’s hockey split a pair of road games this weekend, falling to No. 11 Yale University in New Haven before riding a four-goal second period to a win over Brown University. The Big Green now sits at 12-10-1, and its 9-7-0 conference record is good for fourth in the ECAC.

On Friday night in New Haven, a pair of Stu Wilson goals gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead before the game was six minutes old. Carl Hesler ’18 cut the lead in half, but by the end of the period, Yale led 3-1, using their speed to take advantage of the Big Green’s slow start.

“They came out with a lot of pressure and a lot of speed early, and they put us on our heels,” Brett Patterson ’16 said. “They got a quick goal, and it just pushed us back a little too far. We didn’t really have a response to their speed. They’re a good team, and they have a lot of speed up front. That’s hard to defend, especially when you’re on the road.”

The Big Green was outshot by its Ivy League and ECAC rival by a count of 36 to 22, and a slow start to the first period doomed the Big Green from the opening puck drop.

“I think we made a lot of mistakes in our own zone,” Grant Opperman ’17 said. “Yale is a good team, and if you make mistakes in your own zone, they’re going to capitalize. There were some mental small mistakes that they were able to capitalize on, and I think that allowed them to control the pace of the game. Once you have a lead like that, you can get a little bit more cautious and defensive and make it harder on us to climb out of that hole.”

After a tally by Cody Learned left the score at 4-1 in favor of the Bulldogs just 41 seconds into the second period, coach Bob Gaudet ’81 lifted goaltender Charles Grant ’16 in favor of James Kruger ’16. Kruger went on to stop 22 of the 23 shots he faced.

“For whatever reason, it just wasn’t going [Grant’s] way,” Opperman said. “He’s been unbelievable for a long stretch, and those nights happen. We knew Kruger was a talented goaltender — we saw that a lot last year. He’s a good goalie, and we had a lot of confidence in front of him.”

After falling against Yale, the Big Green rebounded against Brown, powering past the last-placed team in the ECAC for a 6-3 win. Going into the matchup in Providence, the Big Green placed a premium on strong work ethic and sticking to its game plan.

“I think our work ethic was lacking a bit during the first period of the Yale game, and we picked it up as the game went on,” Troy Crema ’17 said. “We wanted to get our work ethic back, stick to the game plan and play our game.”

Against the Bears, Kruger made his first start since a Nov. 27 loss to the University of Michigan and turned aside 30 Brown shots after relieving Grant against Yale. Kruger was also the beneficiary of a strong offensive performance from his Big Green teammates.

Corey Kalk ’18 blocked a shot to spring himself on a breakaway where he wristed a lifted shot past the glove of Brown netminder Tim Ernst to open the scoring. While Kalk’s marker came in the game’s opening frame, a wild, seven-goal second period decided the game.

Brown wing Nick Lappin beat Kruger to tie the game at one before Tim O’Brien ’16, Jack Barre ’16 and Opperman each found the back of the net and gave the visiting Big Green a 4-1 lead. O’Brien’s goal, coming while captain Brad Schierhorn ’16 sat in the sin bin for slashing, marked the Big Green’s first shorthanded tally of the season.

All three Big Green goals came within a two-minute span just after the midway point of the period, but the high-scoring second stanza was not yet complete.

Kevan Kilistoff ’19 authored a beautiful goal, stickhandling past a Brown defender before rifling a shot past Tyler Steel, who replaced Ernst in net after Opperman’s tally. The goal was sandwiched between a pair of Brown tallies, leaving the score at 5-3 after 40 minutes of play.

“It was pretty crazy,” Crema said. “Usually when you’re on the penalty kill, you’re just grinding, but we managed to squeeze a shorthanded goal out of it. From there, we just carried our momentum and chased their goalie.”

Patterson said that he believed the team’s performance against Yale was an exception to their recent strong play and not representative of the team’s best effort.

“It was a group lapse Friday night,” he said. “We took it upon ourselves to say, ‘That’s not the team we are. We’ve been playing good hockey, and we needed to get back to what we want to be as a team, and that’s a hard working, high character team. That showed up on Saturday with the six goals.”

Hesler scored the lone goal of the third period with assists coming from Barre and Josh Hartley ’17 to clinch the Big Green victory. The game was higher scoring than most of the Big Green’s recent victories, in which the team has placed an emphasis on strong play in their defensive zone.

“Obviously, the best case scenario is we score a lot, and they don’t,” Opperman said. “You look at a game like Princeton [a 2-0 victory] and the number that sticks out is zero — any time you can get a shutout, that’s got to be first priority. A game like Brown, where we get six goals is nice, but we focus on the three. If you give me the option between a 6-5 game and a 2-0 game, I’d always want the 2-0 game, but a win is a win.”

Despite surrendering eight goals on the weekend, the Big Green’s penalty kill was a perfect 6-6, and O’Brien gave the Big Green a shorthanded boost. The kill’s success comes as welcome news to the Big Green, which allowed Quinnipiac University to go two-for-two on the power play in last weekend’s 7-5 loss to the Bobcats.

“Coach [John] Rose has been working with us a lot on the penalty kill, and we’ve done a lot of video sessions,” Patterson said. “A lot of details and stick positioning. As a group, we just executed. Our four main killers — O’Brien, Schierhorn, Hesler, and Barre — came up big for us, along with our D-corps. When you get a stop on the penalty kill, you get a little morale boost. It helps you get going on the road especially.”

The Big Green have just six games remaining in the regular season, with the next four at Thompson Arena.

“We like where the team is right now,” Crema said. “Obviously, we had that little speed bump against Quinnipiac last Friday. We’re working really well as a unit. We have six really crucial games ahead of us leading into the playoffs, and if we can string some wins together that would really help us in the long run.”

Next weekend, the Big Green will host Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, respectively.