Men’s hockey at 5-3-1 in ECAC play after solid winter break effort
Forward Drew O'Connor was named the NCAA First Star of the Week after a six-point road trip in November.
Over the last few weeks, the Dartmouth men’s hockey team (7-5-2, 5-3-1 Eastern College Athletic Conference) has racked up some impressive victories.
On Dec. 7, the Big Green defeated No. 2 Cornell University in Hanover, handing the Big Red its first loss of the season. At the time, the Big Red was the last remaining undefeated team in the nation, but behind the outstanding play of goaltender Adrian Clark ’20 — who saved 39-of-40 shots on goal — the Big Green prevailed.
“They’re always a fun team to play against,” said forward Drew O’Connor ’22. “They always have a pretty good crowd. They bring the band down and everything. We just played a really strong game. Clark played great in net and really helped us win that one. That was a huge win for our team.”
The stunner against Cornell was not Dartmouth’s only success in December. With wins versus Colorado College and the University of Connecticut at the end of the year, the Big Green claimed the Ledyard Classic championship for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
The Classic, established in 1978, brings three other hockey teams from around the country to Thompson Arena in Hanover in order to provide Upper Valley residents with high-quality college hockey. The tournament eliminated its traditional championship game before the 2014-15 season, instead awarding the title to the team with the best record after predetermined matchups.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” O’Connor said. “It’s fun to have a lot of teams around, and it’s a ton of fun to be able to play for a trophy. Any time you can do that, it’s a great weekend.”
In the Big Green’s first contest, the special teams units proved to be the difference. Dartmouth scored on each of its first two power plays, with O’Connor tallying late in the first period and Matt Baker ’21 giving the team a 3-1 lead with a score in the second. Meanwhile, the defensive unit killed all four Colorado College power plays en route to a 5-2 victory.
While the Big Green has been great on the power play this year, converting on 23.8 percent of man-advantages this year, the team has struggled to fend off penalties nearly as successfully, with its 74.1 percent kill rate ranking last in the 12-team conference.
“The penalty kill is something that we’ve been working on a lot,” O’Connor said. “I think we do have a pretty good system. We just have been scored on a little too much, so getting that cleared up and figured out is going to be huge for us because we’re going to have to be able to kill off penalties if we want to be successful for the rest of the season.”
The Huskies provided a much tougher test the following day. The teams traded tallies in the second period, but UConn jumped out to a 3-1 lead with just 15 minutes remaining on two Carter Turnbull goals in the span of 42 seconds. O’Connor subsequently scored to cut the deficit in half, and Dartmouth found itself with a chance to tie after an interference call on Husky forward Vladislav Firstov put the team on the power play a minute later.
Chaos ensued. As time on the advantage wound down, a scrum in front of the net developed, and the referees lost sight of the puck. After a review, they determined that Sam Hesler ’22 had scored the equalizer, knotting the score at three apiece with just over 10 minutes left.
Six minutes later, Quin Foreman ’21 claimed a mishandled puck from UConn defenseman Carter Berger at Dartmouth’s blue line and turned on the blazers.
Mark Gallant ’23 joined him down the ice to create a two-on-one, but Foreman completed the job himself, dashing across the top of the faceoff circle and firing the game-winning shot from the high slot. Behind Foreman’s go-ahead goal, Dartmouth completed the comeback in resounding fashion, clinching the title with a 4-3 victory.
“[Foreman] can really rip the puck,” head coach Bob Gaudet ’81 said in a Dartmouth Athletics press release. “He kind of looked the defenseman and the goalie off like he was going to pass it and then shot back the other way.”
Foreman was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, with three goals across the two games.
“It is cool to win anything, obviously,” Foreman said. “Any award always means something, so it was pretty cool to win that. A lot of people are around for the holidays and stuff, so a lot of families were there — my family was there — so it was good to win it with people there.”
Foreman’s five goals and 12 points this season each rank second on the team to O’Connor. The junior was Dartmouth’s leading scorer last season, with 13 goals and 15 assists across 34 games and is again on pace to reach similar marks after a slow start to the season.
“I didn’t score a lot up until that point,” Foreman said. “Maybe I wasn’t getting chances, but maybe I just wasn’t completely there with all my shots, where I was just off by an inch or two. Nothing was really going my way in terms of scoring, but it all came together in the same two nights.”
The victory in the Ledyard Classic may have significant implications for the remainder of Dartmouth’s season. In each of the past two seasons, the winner of the Ledyard Classic secured a spot in the Frozen Four, with the 2017 Ledyard Classic champion — the University of Minnesota Duluth — winning the entire NCAA Tournament.
The Big Green still has quite a bit of work to do before punching its ticket to the Frozen Four, however. The team has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since the 1979-80 season, when it earned an automatic trip to the Frozen Four after reaching the ECAC final. Since then, the tournament has expanded to 16 teams, with college hockey play becoming much more widespread across the United States.
While the team’s resume was certainly boosted with the Ledyard Classic title, Dartmouth still likely finds itself on the outside looking in as of today. In the most recent top-20 released by United States College Hockey Online, the Big Green remained unranked. Dartmouth was among the unranked teams to receive leftover votes, however, indicating that the team’s stock has the ability to improve with more consistent play.
“We have some pretty good teams coming up in the next few weeks that are ranked,” Foreman said. “It’s always just the first step to just get right on the bubble and just get over that hump and crack that bubble. The next few weekends are going to be pretty big for that.”
As Foreman noted, the Big Green still has plenty of opportunities to earn more national recognition. In its first two games in the new year, Dartmouth earned an overtime 4-3 win at Princeton University on Jan. 3 but saw its win streak stopped at three with a 5-1 loss at Quinnipiac University the next day. The Big Green’s next test comes on Friday at the University of Vermont, an unfavorable matchup in recent years. Dartmouth has not knocked off the Catamounts since December 2012, going 0-5-1 in its six most recent contests and 3-10-1 in 14 meetings overall.