Playing in its first official games since March 2020, Dartmouth men’s hockey opened its season at Thompson Arena with a pair of losses against Harvard University and the University of Connecticut on Friday and Saturday.
Dartmouth had to play catch-up early on against a high-scoring Harvard offense, falling behind only 70 seconds into the game. Coming into the matchup, Harvard was ranked No. 15 by USCHO.com and No. 14 by a USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
Harvard tacked on two more goals — one on the power play three minutes later and one at the beginning of the second period — before Tanner Palocsik ’23 picked up a loose puck, accelerated down the ice and slapped in a goal to put Dartmouth on the board.
Palocsik’s goal was the only bright spot of the period for the Big Green, however. Harvard proceeded to embark on a scoring barrage, netting five more goals by the end of the second period.
In the third period, Dartmouth managed to score twice, with goals from forwards Ryan Sorkin ’24 and Joey Musa ’24, but the Big Green ultimately fell 9-3 in its first ECAC matchup. Sorkin’s first career goal came after Trym Løkkeberg ’25 passed the puck to Tyler Borsh ’24, who hit Sorkin as he streaked toward the center. Musa’s goal was also the first in his Dartmouth career, coming halfway through the final period, when he reeled in the puck after several deflections near the net and punched it in for the score.
Despite the loss, Musa described being back on the ice as “amazing.”
“The year was tough for everybody, but everybody is just grateful to have this opportunity and be able to play college hockey,” Musa said.
Although Dartmouth lost 4-1 on Saturday to UConn, head coach Reid Cashman, Musa and goalie Clay Stevenson ’24 all said that the team improved its performance in the second game of the weekend.
Dartmouth put up a fight against UConn, with neither team scoring until the beginning of the third period, but the Big Green fell behind late. UConn and Dartmouth traded goals early in the third period, but UConn’s three goals in the last six minutes put the Huskies over the top.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Cashman said. “We competed for sixty minutes.”
In the first period, Dartmouth survived two power plays to stay even with UConn, playing most of the period in the neutral zone and taking just six shots compared to UConn’s 10.
UConn had a larger shooting advantage in the second period, taking 14 shots compared to just two for the Big Green, but Stevenson stifled the Huskies’ chances throughout the period. On the day, Stevenson saved 34 shots while only allowing two goals.
“It’s my job to look at the screens, find the pucks and make the save,” Stevenson said. “I’m definitely really excited to be here and play my first college game, and I thought it was decently successful.”
UConn finally broke through in the third period, with goals from an experienced unit of upperclassmen. In the first minute of the third, UConn senior Carter Turnbull put the Huskies ahead with their first goal of the night.
Musa answered shortly after with his second goal in as many nights to knot the score at 1-1.
“We had just gotten scored on, and it was time to answer,” Musa said. “Jeff Losurdo ’22, coming down the right side, made an absolutely great pass to me and [I] just shot, got it off as quick as I could, and it ended up in the back net.”
The score stayed tied for about 10 minutes until UConn’s Vladislav Firstov broke the tie with just under six minutes to play. With under four minutes left, the Big Green called a timeout to pull Stevenson out and try to even the score with an extra skater. As the clock ticked down, UConn scored two empty net goals with 2:06 and 58 seconds left to seal the victory.
UConn’s veteran presence proved too much for the young Big Green team, with juniors and seniors scoring their first three goals.
“We’re still growing as a young team, and UConn had one freshman on the line,” Cashman said. “They were a veteran group.”
It took a series of impressive saves from Stevenson to keep the game as close as it was. Stevenson said he watched video before the game to prepare for UConn’s offense.
“You always just try to make reads and anticipate where those pucks are going to go,” Stevenson said.
Despite the defeat, Cashman said he was pleased with his team’s improvement in the close game against UConn.
“Honestly, I think we took a step from Friday to Saturday, '' he said. “The challenge for us is to be better tomorrow than we were today.”
Next weekend, Dartmouth will host Colgate University at 5 p.m. on Friday night and Cornell University at 7 p.m. on Saturday as the team tries to secure its first win.
“We’re going to look at some video, see where we were strong, see where we were not so great and just work from here,” Musa said. “It's all about growth.”