Men’s hockey wins three straight against conference opponents

by Olivia Morton | 11/18/19 2:25am

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The men’s hockey team gets to work cleaning up tennis balls after Will Graber ’20’s first goal against Princeton last Saturday.

by Elsa Ericksen / The Dartmouth Staff

The Dartmouth men’s hockey team is now 3-2-1 on the season after winning its last three games against Princeton University, Yale University and Brown University.

Last Saturday, the Big Green faced off against Princeton in one of the most anticipated games of the season: the tennis ball game. The tradition began in the early ’90s and is believed to have begun after a Princeton student threw a tennis ball at a Big Green goaltender after the Tigers’ first goal, leading Dartmouth students to later respond by flooding the ice with tennis balls after Dartmouth’s first goal of the game. Though the tradition has caused some controversy over the years, it continued strong in Thompson Arena this year.

In what has historically been a competitive matchup, the Big Green came out on top this time, 3-1.

After surviving an early tripping penalty, the Big Green was off to the races, with Will Graber ’20 scoring an early goal after winning a faceoff and capitalizing off a rebound from a shot by Drew O’Connor ’22. The shower of tennis balls was almost immediate, with neon yellow Wilsons bouncing sporadically off the ice as the Dartmouth student section erupted.

“It’s obviously super fun to score the tennis ball goal, good to go to the student section, good to go to the fans,” Graber said. “We love the tennis ball tradition — it brings a ton of energy. Everyone is super excited for that game every year. It’s just fun to have the building going and people you know in the stands.”

After a brief delay to clear the tennis balls from the ice, play was fairly back and forth but Dartmouth maintained the lead. Though the Big Green suffered from committing penalties throughout the first and second periods, the Tigers were unable to convert any of their six power-play opportunities; Princeton did score a goal, however, seconds after Matt Baker ’21 returned from time in the box for a tripping penalty. The goal brought the game to a tie for the first time since Graber’s goal.

The Big Green dominated the next 10 minutes, and while it did not manage to score on a 5-on-3 power play, Graber came in clutch again with his second goal of the game during his 100th career game for the Big Green. With just over six minutes remaining in the third period, Graber took a pass from Quin Foreman ’21 and found the back of the net to give the Big Green the lead again.

Less than one minute later, Daniel Warpecha ’20 scored Dartmouth’s third goal of the night off a scrum in the box and a misplay from the Tigers’ goaltender. The Big Green held onto its lead and came out with its first win of the season. 

More recently, the team headed down I-95 this past weekend to face off against two huge Eastern College Athletic Conference and Ivy League opponents, Yale and Brown. The Big Green took both games, beating the Bulldogs 4-3 and the Bears 4-1. 

Against Yale, the team struggled to take the lead, but fought hard to stay in the game, scoring in response to each of the Bulldogs goals. The Big Green eventually gained the lead off of a quick-release slapshot goal from Foreman nine minutes into the third period. Yale responded with four minutes remaining in the game, but the Big Green was not deterred. Graber once again came up with a huge goal with 1:25 remaining in regulation, and Dartmouth held on to that lead to come out on top with its second Ivy League win of the year. 

Warpecha, who scored in the big game against Princeton last Saturday, reflected on the team’s strengths this weekend and goals for the rest of the season. 

“Our team scoring has been great off the get go, being something that we struggled with last year — and this year it’s been great,” Warpecha said. “A big thing we can improve on is obviously our discipline, minimizing the amount of penalties we take — I think that’s the big one. I also think that playing a full game is important — at least how the ECAC is and a lot of college hockey, if you take five minutes off a lot of things can go wrong. But I think we’ve done a pretty good job of playing 50-55 minutes hard.”

The team carried the momentum from New Haven down to Providence, where the Big Green beat the Bears 4-1 on Saturday evening. The Big Green asserted its dominance from the start, with two first period goals from Brendan Less ’21 and O’Connor within minutes of each other. The second goal from O’Connor came during a power play off a perfect passing pattern. Dartmouth furthered the gap with a goal in the first 30 seconds of the second period from, Graber once again, who intercepted a Brown pass and quickly took advantage of his opportunity, slamming a shot into the top of the net. Graber has scored four goals in the Big Green’s last three games. Brown responded with a goal late in the second, but that was not enough to spark a comeback, and the Big Green held onto its lead for the remainder of the game, with O’Connor scoring his second goal of the game on an open net to end the game with Dartmouth on top, 4-1.

“The overall trend of our team right now, we’re off to a really good start, and I think that speaks to our team and our ability to play a very mature game,” Warpecha said. “Obviously being on the road the goal is to get some points out of it, but being able to get a weekend sweep, those two wins — its huge.” 

Now 3-1-1 overall in ECAC play, the Big Green men’s hockey team takes a two week break for finals and Thanksgiving. Dartmouth will return to action at Thompson Arena on Dec. 6 against Colgate University.