Men's hockey outshoots opponents in 18 of last 20 games
Drew O'Connor '18 fired a slapshot in Friday's game against RPI. O'Connor scored the game-tying goal late in the third period.
This weekend, the men’s hockey team registered more shots on goal than both of its opponents, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and No. 20 Union College. This statistic has become the new norm for the team: the Big Green has outshot opponents in 18 of its last 20 games.
But the large quantity of shots has not necessarily translated into success in putting the puck in the net. That was the case again this weekend, as the Big Green tied RPI 3-3 on Friday and fell to Union 3-1 the next night despite outshooting both by 12 and 10 shots, respectively.
Starting goaltender Adrian Clark ’20 believes the team’s mental drive allows them to outshoot opponents on a regular basis.
“It shows tenacity by our players to take pucks to the net and create chances like that,” he said. “When it becomes a part of our team identity, like it has been to put pucks on net every chance we get, the rest of our players on the ice can anticipate what’s going to happen, and they can then drive the net to clean up any rebounds if the first shot doesn’t go in.”
Forward and alternate captain Carl Hesler ’18 is happy with the team’s offensive pressure in recent games.
“Our team, especially in the past five to 10 games, has played very hard and has done a terrific job of getting pucks to the net because of our hard-nosed mentality,” Hesler said. “We do a good job of winning puck battles in the offensive zone and setting ourselves up for chances, whether it’s a dirty wrap-around or off-angled shot or a grade A opportunity in the high slot.”
Clark explained why he felt the team has done a good job controlling the puck in the offensive zone.
“A lot of our chances are grade A scoring chances and aren’t just perimeter shots. By really attacking their defense and goalie so far, we’ve been able to generate second and third chances around the net,” he said. “Because of this, a lot of our goals come from gritty rebounds or tips because guys know when we’re in their end, pucks will be going toward the net any chance we get.”
The Big Green has consistently outshot opponents this year. While the team ranks only 51st in the nation in shots on goal with 728, the Big Green has just the second-fewest shots allowed with 594. When adjusted for games played, Dartmouth sits in the top 10 of the difference between shots on goal and shots allowed. At the same time, however, opponents have outscored the Big Green 71-57 on the season. Despite this, Clark believes the offensive pressure has helped the Big Green’s defense.
“Knowing that they have come to play and are willing to do their part in the game and get shots and hopefully pucks in the back of the net allows the defensive core to focus on our game, and motivates us to match their attention to detail,” Clark said.
Outshooting opponents has quickly become an integral part of the team’s identity.
“It’s something we talk a lot about before games and between periods,” Clark said. “One of our team’s process goals for a game is to register 10 shots in the first 10 minutes of a games. It is a high target, but it pushes us to play at our best, and it’s been impressive that we’ve been able to accomplish that numerous times this year.”
As a result of the current strategy, Dartmouth has only been outshot in just four of its 25 games this season. While teams might expect to perform better when outshooting opponents, the Big Green went undefeated in the four games when opponents finished with more shots on goal.
“While getting shots is important, at the end of the day, as shown by our record overall and in the past games where we haven’t been scoring much, there’s a lot more to it than simply outshooting the opponent,” Hesler said. “We have to find a way to bury the puck, and that just comes from bearing down and focusing on it more in practice. We need to start capitalizing more on our chances.”
Hesler wants the team to improve consistency in puck control in addition to continuing the team’s offensive pressure.
“For most of the game we have been dominant, but the moment we let down and let the other team get momentum, we let them back in the game and give them the opportunity to beat us,” he said. “We need to keep the same mentality going forward, as [pucks] are bound to start going in. We also just need to practice shooting more pucks and picking corners to make the most of the grade A scoring chances we get.”
Clark said the team needs to maintain their aggressive style of play to have success during the rest of the season.
“We’ve come up against some hot goalies who have been able to stand tall against our onslaught of shots and virtually win the game for the other team, but I believe if we continue to outshoot the other team by 10 or 20 shots each night, it gives us the best chance of winning the game,” he said. “There’s no reason to not stick to this mindset that we’ve developed.”
The Big Green now stand at 8-12-3 on the season, with a conference record of 7-7-2. At seventh place in the Eastern College Athletic Conference with six games left to play, Dartmouth will surely want to keep up its rapid pace of shooting — and hope that a few more pucks find the back of the net.