Halfway through the season, men’s hockey is uneven but dangerous
The Dartmouth men’s hockey team has proven multiple times throughout the first half of this season that it can compete with any team in the country. However, after some recent disappointments, it is looking to get back on track with more consistent play going into the second half of the season.
With legendary coach Bob Gaudet ’81 at the helm, the Big Green has been dangerous as usual. Dartmouth beat the two best teams it played, No. 15 Quinnipiac University and No. 16 Cornell University, and it boasts an impressive 4-2-1 record in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. However, the Big Green is still a mediocre 5-7-2 for the season due to a few uninspiring performances against beatable teams.
The Big Green started the season on a great note, and its 7-6 victory over Harvard University set a strong precedent for the games to come.
“I would say the highlight of the first half was the very first game of the year, beating Harvard in overtime in a wild game,” said defenseman Brendan Demler ’21. “Last season we started off on the road against them and lost 5-0, so being able to start off on the right foot led to a string of good performances in league games for us.”
Dartmouth went 4-3 in its first seven games, including 2-1 against ranked opponents. In addition, all four of its wins came against ECAC opponents, with three of them coming against traditional Ivy League rivals. The Big Green dominated Quinnipiac 5-1, making a significant statement to the ECAC.
“It was the exact start we wanted,” said forward Will Graber ’20.
The team’s 3-2 victory over Cornell was critical for many reasons. It was a major accomplishment to knock off a ranked opponent and the defending ECAC regular season champions, but it was especially significant for Gaudet. The victory made him Dartmouth’s all-time wins leader with 309, which was a critical milestone for not only Gaudet but for the players.
“The amount of passion he brings to our locker room is unparalleled,” said goalie Adrian Clark ’20. “His success has made him a living legend for the Dartmouth hockey program, and it’s truly an honor to be able to have him as a mentor during my time here.”
But since the victory over Cornell, the team has struggled to play as effectively. The Big Green has only won one of its last seven games, losing four and tying two. Dartmouth also dropped back-to-back contests to unranked New Hampshire, which was a beatable opponent.
“Once the break came, we hit a bit of a struggle,” Graber said. “We had a few letdowns in games I think we all would like to have back.”
While the Big Green has struggled as a team lately, many individuals have played well throughout the season. Graber leads the team in points with 13, while forward Drew O’Connor ’22 has already scored seven goals in his rookie campaign and Quin Foreman ’21 has done the same in his second season. This trio of forewards will anchor the offensive attack for the remainder of this season and for next season as well.
Additionally, Clark has had a solid start in net for the Big Green. Clark has put up 321 saves, and he has a solid .899 save percentage this season.
“Adrian has been outstanding in net this season,” said forward Jeff Losurdo ’22. “He’s bailed us out a couple of times already this year.”
The talent may be there, but the focus now turns to being more consistent as Ivy League play ramps up. Dartmouth has to travel to take on top-tier teams like Princeton University, Cornell and Harvard, although they’ll also get some marquee home matchups including back-to-back games against Yale University and Brown University on Feb. 22 and 23.
“We all believe we should be a top four team in the ECAC to earn a bye and home-ice advantage in the second round,” Demler said. “That means we are going to have to go on the road and play some real good hockey, which we are more than capable of doing.”
The Big Green put themselves in position to contend in the ECAC with its strong start, but it will need to continue with consistent play in the conference in order to position itself well for the conference playoffs.
“It really comes down to showing up every game, and, whether we win or lose, putting up performances every single night instead of once a week,” Graber said. “I don’t think we’ve strung together back-to-back wins all year, and that’s something that needs to change.”
Look for the Big Green to bring more energy and consistency to what should be an exciting second half of the season.