Men’s hockey splits weekend, earns six seed in ECAC tournament
Men’s hockey beat Union 5-3 and lost to RPI 4-1 to finish the regular season.
Big Green men’s hockey finished off its regular season at home this weekend with two decisive games against Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After beating Union 5-3 but falling 4-1 to RPI, the Big Green came out of the weekend with two points, solidifying its sixth-place finish in the Eastern College Athletic Conference.
Friday evening was a whirlwind, to say the very least. Drew O’Connor ’22, who now leads the conference with 21 goals, kicked off the scoring midway into the first frame assisted by Brendan Demler ’21 and Jeff Losurdo ’22. The Dutchmen responded just five minutes later, but Losurdo punched back after less than a minute to take back the lead, which the Big Green would maintain for the rest of the game.
A late first-period penalty gave Dartmouth the advantage on the power play at the start of the second period. A pass from Will Graber ’20 to just outside the crease found O’Connor’s stick, who buried the puck in the back of the net after a rebound off the initial shot. The next tallies came later in the period when Union scored its second of the night to bring it within one of the Big Green. Cam Strong ’20 scored off Graber’s second assist of the night to help Dartmouth pull away with a minute and a half remaining in the second.
The third period was a similar story. Union scored early off a power play to again try to close in on the Big Green, but goaltender Adrian Clark ’20 and the Big Green defensive unit kept the visitors out of the net for the rest of the period. O’Connor scored his third of the night during another power play with five minutes left in regulation, completing the first hat trick of his career. At the final buzzer, Dartmouth clinched two points with a 5-3 win.
“I like the way the team is coming along,” said head coach Bob Gaudet ’81. “There’s a lot of maturity on our team and we play hard. It’s just fabulous to see. I think Drew O’Connor’s just one of those guys — I hope the fans come out and watch him play because he is just a fabulous hockey player. He just finds a way. I love his attitude, he just keeps on coming out hard. He’s a threat to score every time.”
Coming into Saturday night’s game, the team knew the result (in conjunction with the results of a few other key ECAC games) would determine who the team would play in the first series of the playoffs next weekend. The away team, RPI, entered Thompson Arena looking for a win in order to secure a home ice series.
The first frame, like a few others this season, was scoreless. Dartmouth players stayed out of the penalty box and had a lot of early opportunities, but could not find the back of the net.
“I think our work ethic has been consistent but the results haven’t been there,” Gaudet said. “It’s not anything big that we have to shore up, I’d just love to bury some opportunities. We typically get some really good opportunities early and when it goes, things go well for us and when it doesn’t sometimes it’s a little slippery. We just got to work on our consistency, staying after it because we’re getting good bids and you know I’d like to do it for a full game.”
RPI got the first tally of the game nine minutes into the second frame, kicking off a three-goal streak that was capped off by two goals scored within 28 seconds of one another. O’Connor cut off this run with his 21st goal of the season, finding the back of the net while the Big Green was down a player after Collin Rutherford ’21 was called for slashing.
The team continued to fight and had multiple chances, with numerous shots dinging the post, just outside the goal or saved by RPI’s goaltender Owen Savory. RPI finished off the game with a final empty net goal after Clark was pulled to try and get something started offensively. The score at the buzzer was 4-1, with RPI on top.
“I think the goalie has probably a 96 save percentage and I would venture to say that is totally the difference in their team,” Gaudet said. “We had some point-blank bids and maybe they’re not glaring, but we had some good players with point blank bids that he stopped. So I think that’s the difference. Our mistakes ended up in the back of the net, and it wasn’t Clarky’s fault, they’re just a very good, solid, and opportunistic team. They’re well coached, they clamp it down once they get a lead, and I was hoping we could get a lead and they could chase it. And that’s what happened with us, we had to chase it a bit.”
At the end of regulation, Dartmouth honored the program’s nine seniors: Ryan Blankemeier ’20, Clark, Ben DiMaio ’20, Graber, Clay Han ’20, Shane Sellar ’20, Dean Shatzer ’20, Strong and Daniel Warpecha ’20.
Next weekend, the postseason play begins with the ECAC tournament. The Big Green, seeded sixth in the conference, will take on 11th-seeded Princeton University at home. The series is best of three, with the winner moving on to the quarterfinals. Games will be played at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 5 p.m. on Sunday if necessary.
“Everybody is good, it’s just a brutally tough league so everybody we play is good, and we just gotta play hard,” Gaudet said. “The regular season is over now and so we move on to the playoffs. That’s the next play for us.”