Hockey falls in ECAC quarterfinal after first round victory
The Big Green defeated St. Lawrence University in the first round of the ECAC tournament but fell to Harvard in the quarterfinals.
The men’s hockey team’s season ended on March 16 with a 4-3 overtime loss to Harvard University, as the Big Green fell to the Crimson for the second straight year in the Eastern College Athletic Conference quarterfinals.
In the first round of the tournament, No. 5 seed Dartmouth took on St. Lawrence University, the lowest seed in the competition. In the first game of the best-of-three series at Thompson Arena on March 8, Drew O’Connor ’22 and Quin Foreman ’21 — the team’s top two goals scorers — started the scoring while Collin Rutherford ’21 netted the deciding third goal late in the second period as the Big Green won 3-2.
Game two proved to be frustrating for the Big Green, which lost 3-2 in overtime despite registering 60 shots on goal to SLU’s 24 attempts. Dartmouth leaned on goals from rookies Jeff Losurdo ’22 and O’Connor, but St. Lawrence goaltender Daniel Mannella’s strong play limited the Big Green’s offense.
“It’s frustrating, no question, when you put up that amount of shots because you have the puck a lot, and it takes a lot of work to actually get to that point,” head coach Bob Gaudet ’81 said. “The goalie was just fabulous. I give them credit.”
Mannella finished with 58 saves, and the Saints scored with less than three minutes left in the first overtime period to send the series to a decisive game three the following night.
Entering game three, Gaudet knew the team would need to rebound from a heartbreaking loss.
“The guys were very upbeat, focused and positive, and it showed from the very start of the game,” Gaudet said.
Dartmouth dominated the Saints, securing a place in the quarterfinals with an 8-0 win. Dartmouth was fueled by five second-period goals, and St. Lawrence substituted Mannella out of the game before the halfway mark. Seven different players found the back of the net for the Big Green, including two goals from Will Graber ’20.
Gaudet believed the team’s offensive adjustments led to the high scoring output in the game.
“We really got to [Mannella],” he said. “We got in front of him, took his sightlines away, we got pucks to the net and we were very efficient and crisp. We kept on the same mode of getting pucks to the net. Our team came back and showed a lot of character in losing a tough game that we played very well in [by] coming back and finding a way to win decisively. It speaks a lot of our team.”
Dartmouth goaltender Adrian Clark ’20 said the team showed the mental and physical toughness necessary to advance.
“I wasn’t sure if they were going to have the legs or mental will to think that they would be able to win, but it was really impressive,” he said. “The guys stuck with it and came back with just as much, if not more, effort the next night.”
Clark had himself a night to remember, as he recorded his sixth shutout of the season, the most by any Dartmouth goaltender in a single season.
“It was probably one of the highlights of the season, just to have my name go down in the Dartmouth hockey record books like that,” Clark said. “Especially towards the end of the season, guys started blocking shots, so that makes my job easier.”
Gaudet, a former goaltender for Dartmouth himself, said he was proud of Clark. Even though the Big Green had the game in hand following the second period, Gaudet knew what was at stake and left Clark in net.
“He’s a very quiet guy and unassuming, and he goes out and does his job,” Gaudet said. “He’s a very humble guy that works really hard. I think he got into a zone. He played very well taking over the starting job this year and then clicking into gear the second half of the season. He was one of our key players and a backbone of our team.”
The Big Green took on Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts the next weekend for the best-of-three quarterfinal series. In the first game of the series, Dartmouth lit the lamp first when Ryan Blankemeier ’20 scored his second goal in as many games. Harvard responded quickly, and the teams remained tied at one in the third period. With less than nine minutes remaining, Harvard forward Adam Fox found the back of the net on a give-and-go to give the Crimson its first lead of the night. An empty-net goal followed, and the Big Green dropped the game 3-1. Gaudet, however, was happy with his team’s performance against a talented, well-rested Harvard squad, and he praised Fox’s play. Fox is one of this year’s ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the top player in college hockey.
With its back against the wall, the Big Green started its second game with two goals in the opening three minutes. Brendan Demler ’21 opened the scoring, and O’Connor followed soon thereafter. O’Connor’s goal was his team-leading 17th goal of the season. He tied for 15th in the country in goals per game and is tied for second in goals by a rookie skater. O’Connor became the first Dartmouth player to finish the season with the sole lead on the team for goals scored since Nick Johnson ’08 did so in the 2004-2005 season.
Despite the Big Green’s early lead, the Crimson responded with three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead. Dartmouth did not back down, however, and Foreman scored his 13th goal of the year to tie the game, bringing the score to 3-3 through the end of regulation. After just over two minutes into overtime, Harvard scored on a wraparound goal to earn the series victory and end the Big Green’s season.
The Big Green was outshot by Harvard in both games of the series, marking the eighth and ninth time the team was outshot this year.
Gaudet felt that the Big Green was the better team in game two despite the loss.
“We deserved a better fate in that game,” he said. “Harvard played really well, but I thought our team was absolutely outstanding. We just didn’t end up on top.”
Harvard reached its fifth-straight appearance in the ECAC semifinals and advanced to the NCAA tournament along with ECAC teams Brown University, Clarkson University and Cornell University. Clarkson went on to defeat Cornell to win the championship on Saturday.
The Big Green’s two losses marked just the second time this season that the team lost back-to-back games in the same weekend.
“I told the guys after the game how much I was proud of them, how well they played, and I was saddened for them,” Gaudet said.
Dartmouth finished the season with a 13-17-4 record, including a 10-9-3 mark in conference play. The team finished 37th in the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to determine the 16 teams that advance to the NCAA tournament.
Gaudet said the Big Green will miss the leadership of the senior class, which helped develop young players such as O’Connor and Foreman. The team will return eight of its top 11 players in points from this season.
Clark said he learned to not take any game lightly and hopes that the team will learn from the playoff experience.
“We had some good leadership on our team, but we also had a lot of young guys step into good roles,” Clark said. “Hopefully, that motivates the other guys, like the freshmen who are coming in, to step up and realize that they can have an impact on this team.”
Despite losing six seniors, Gaudet believes the future is bright for the program.
“There’s a really good group of young players on the team,” he said. “The veteran players did a really nice job, so I like what we got coming back and the experience we had. “You always want to take that next step, and that’s our goal next year. We want to find a way to be playing hockey this time next year, playing in Lake Placid with the goal of winning an ECAC championship.”