Men's hockey defeats St. Lawrence University to advance in postseason tournament

by Jake Philhower | 3/5/18 2:15am

This past weekend, the men’s hockey team played in its first playoff series of the postseason against St. Lawrence University, winning 2-1. Dartmouth was the highest seed in the Eastern College Athletic Conference that did not receive a bye, so the men played the last-ranked Saints in the first round. Dartmouth swept the regular season series against the Saints, winning the first game 3-2 and the second 3-1. The Big Green looked poised to make a run in this year’s ECAC tournament, but St. Lawrence proved to be a team that should not be overlooked.

In the first game on Friday, Dartmouth came out strong, outshooting the Saints 9-5 in the first period. However, the Big Green could not get the puck past Arthur Brey, and Devin Buffalo ’18 saved all five shots, leaving the game scoreless in the first period. St. Lawrence struck first in the second period, but the Big Green responded with two important goals from forwards Shane Sellar ’20 and captain Kevan Kilistoff ’19. The third period was full of hustle as the Big Green clung onto its one-goal lead. With a solid performance from the defense, Buffalo made 12 saves in the third period, proving to be just enough to get the Big Green the crucial first win in the series.

Dartmouth would not fair nearly as well in game two as St. Lawrence played to keep its season alive. Ryan Blankemeier ’20 netted an early goal for the Big Green in the first period, but St. Lawrence scored the equalizer with just over six minutes left in the period. After the Saints jumped ahead in the second period, River Rymsha ’18 scored a goal to bring the score to 2-2, but St. Lawrence scored two decisive goals in the third period, tying up the series and forcing an elimination game on Sunday.

With tensions high at Thompson Arena, both teams came to play in game three. The first period featured a series of saves from Buffalo, who kept his team in the game. Dartmouth produced several chances on the offensive side of the ice but failed to capitalize. Though play was fairly chippy, the first period had no penalties and seemed to be evenly matched. Finally, in the second period, Dartmouth was fortunate enough to find themselves in a 5-on-3 power play situation, during which Will Graber ’20 sent a slap shot from the blue line past the St. Lawrence goalie. Dartmouth did a good job maintaining this lead throughout much of the second period, but a careless giveaway behind the goal led to a fairly easy St. Lawrence goal just before the end of the period.

“The second period was probably the best second period we played in this building all season,” head coach Bob Gaudet ’81 said after the game. “I thought we were really good. [St. Lawrence] made a good play and put it in our net, but our kids weren’t down in between periods.”

In the third period, play was as intense as it has been all season for the Big Green. On a breakaway early in the period, Corey Kalk ’18 scored in a mad rush to the net. After a review of the goal because the net moved out of place during the rush, the ruling was in favor of the Big Green. The puck crossed the goal line prior to having the net knocked off, thus giving the Big Green an instrumental goal.

As time ticked away in the third period, the team had a strong push to the finish. The Big Green outhustled the Saints, allowing very few shots on goal. The team also cleared the puck several times after St. Lawrence pulled its goalie, effectively keeping the Saints’ sharpshooters at bay.

One of the keys for the Big Green in the elimination game was remaining disciplined and avoiding confrontation. In between the whistles, this game was physical, but the Big Green consistently skated away from St. Lawrence players when faced with adversity.

“I think we were focused on staying disciplined in between the whistles,” Kalk said. “Last night, we took a couple stupid penalties, and it cost us, but tonight we did a better job and I think that will help us as we move forward in the playoffs.”

The Big Green are slated to play Harvard University next week in the ECAC quarterfinals. Harvard had a very strong season this year behind star forward Ryan Donato, who was the standout player for Team USA in Pyeongchang after scoring nearly half of the team’s goals. If Dartmouth wants to make it to the final four in Lake Placid, it needs to play its best hockey in Cambridge this weekend.

With this road trip to Cambridge falling on the same date as the start of finals, the men will have almost no time to spare between preparing for the biggest games of the season and doing well in the classroom.

“It’s going to be a matter of trying to get as much of our work done as we possibly can during the week,” Graber said. “Once game time hits, you have to just focus on the game and put whatever work you have behind you.”

With this first round win in its pocket, the Big Green has a bit of momentum going into next week’s games against Harvard. The puck is scheduled to drop for Game 1 in the series this Friday at 7 p.m. in Cambridge.