Men’s hockey eliminated in first round of ECAC Tournament after loss to RPI

The Big Green won the first game of the three-game series against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute but dropped games 2 and 3.

by Heath Monsma | 3/7/22 2:10am

menshockey-carolinekramer

The men’s hockey team finished 7-22-3 on the season.

by Caroline Kramer / The Dartmouth

The men’s hockey team played a best-of-three series this weekend against sixth-seeded Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the first round of the ECAC Tournament. Dartmouth won the first game of the series, but lost back-to-back heartbreakers on Saturday and Sunday to end the season for the Big Green.

In the first game of the series on Friday night, the Big Green came out firing when Sean Chisholm ’25 scored on a breakaway only 53 seconds into the game. It only took RPI 17 seconds to respond, however, as a redirected shot from the blue line evened up the score. After a hectic Dartmouth power play, in which RPI nearly scored shorthanded on a two-on-one rush and Mark Gallant ’23 was barely denied with a toe save, both teams settled in on defense and the chances were limited. The Big Green began to turn up the pressure late in the first, ringing a shot off the post. With four minutes left, Gallant converted on another opportunity, notching his team-leading 11th goal of the year. Again the Engineers had a lightning-fast reply, as they scored only 28 seconds later to end the heart-racing first period tied 2-2.

The second period favored RPI with the Engineers doubling Dartmouth’s shots 14-7. However, goalie Clay Stevenson ‘24 was a brick wall for the Big Green, stopping all 14 shots — including a full extension breakaway save where the RPI player went crashing into the net. Dartmouth was able to steal the period late, as Jeff Losurdo ’22 picked up the puck behind the net, wrapped around and stuffed it in. By keeping the puck deep in the zone, Chisholm picked up his second assist of the night, giving him his first three-point game of his career. The 3-2 margin going into the third period held through the rest of regulation, as RPI continued to pepper Stevenson, who finished the game with a total of 36 saves. With two minutes remaining, RPI pulled its goalie and maintained possession in the offensive zone. A worn down Dartmouth defense let up a flurry of desperation chances with less than 10 seconds remaining, but none of the shots could get past the goal line as the Big Green took the first game, beating RPI for the first time in two seasons.

The next night, Dartmouth was looking for the sweep, but RPI had other ideas. Eight minutes into the game, a backhand in the slot led to a rebound goal for Rensselaer, putting the Engineers up 1-0. The Big Green would not catch that deficit. Dartmouth had a solid first period, as the Big Green generated chances on their one power play and kept the shots even at 9-9, but the second period was disastrous. 

The problems began when Dartmouth got into penalty trouble, surviving one penalty kill five minutes into the period but then being forced back on its heels again five minutes later for another tripping call. This time, the Big Green was not so lucky, as RPI picked them apart with tic-tac-toe passing, leading to a wide open tap-in goal. Dartmouth would pick up another penalty for boarding with three minutes left in the period, and with only seconds left, two separate scuffles caused three Big Green players to sit in the penalty box at once (although RPI had four). In total, Dartmouth was outshot 15-3 in the second, with all three Big Green shots coming from Nick Unruh ’24. 

After escaping the second period with only a two-goal deficit, the Big Green battled back in the third as Ryan Sorkin ’24 painted the top left corner with a one-timer. A reawakened Dartmouth team threatened to tie the game on several occasions, but with six minutes left to play, an RPI rush got behind the Big Green defensemen, and the Engineers went up 3-1. While captain Harrison Markell ’22 scored less than a minute later on a change-up bouncing shot that confused the RPI goalie, the rally proved to be too little too late. Dartmouth did have a nearly perfectly executed face-off play with 12 seconds left that nearly sent the matchup to overtime, but the final score remained 3-2. With the series tied up at one win apiece, everything came down to the showdown on Sunday.

The tension of the win-or-go-home matchup showed for the Big Green early in the first, as play was sloppy and the puck bounced all over the ice. The Dartmouth skaters were able to get their heads on straight before there were any consequences, though, as Matt Hubbarde ’25 buried a rebound off of a Joey Musa ’24 wrist shot, giving the Big Green a 1-0 lead. With the exception of the goal, much of the first period was made up of the two teams feeling each other out as they tried to get set up in their offensive zones. 

The second period was a significant contrast, as both teams increased their physicality and played with effort that showed their seasons were on the line. Eight minutes into the period, Dartmouth was able to break through when Ian Pierce ’25 took a shot from the blue line that ricocheted right onto the stick of Ryan Sorkin ’24, who slapped it home for his second goal in two games. Dartmouth continued to roll until Gallant committed a slashing penalty, leaving the Big Green down a man. RPI was able to cut the lead in half on the power play, foreshadowing the Big Green’s achilles heel. After a tripping penalty on Braiden Dorfman ’25, Dartmouth executed its only successful kill of the game and was rewarded with its own power play to close out the period. Dorfman was able to redeem himself with only five seconds left when he went top shelf to make the lead 3-1 heading into the final period. 

After outplaying RPI in the second, the Big Green killed its momentum when, four minutes into the third, a hooking penalty and subsequent RPI power-play goal tightened the game. As both teams took promising rushes down the ice, the Big Green slowly began to turn the tide back in its favor — when RPI picked up a penalty on a miscue for putting too many men on the ice, it seemed like the opportunity to slam the door. However, after the Engineers forced a turnover, a remarkable individual effort earned them a shorthanded goal that tied the game at three. This proved to be the turning point in the game, as Dartmouth picked up yet another penalty, this time for slashing, and RPI scored a third power play goal of the night with under four minutes remaining to claim its first lead of the game. As the Big Green tried to pull its goalie and find the game-tying goal, a scuffle broke out in front of the net and only Sorkin was sent to the penalty box, eliminating the man advantage for Dartmouth in the final minute. Rensselaer scored on the empty net, widening the 5-3 final score and ending the season for the Big Green.

Despite the loss, head coach Reid Cashman was happy with his team’s effort in a do-or-die game.

“All year, we’ve competed. I really liked our energy tonight and we had a really good second, but you have to find a way to play 60 minutes to win a game, particularly in the playoffs,” Cashman said. “It is a tough lesson to learn, but maybe the lesson you have to go through with a young group.”

Cashman said that even though the Dartmouth squad was much younger compared to RPI, he chose to see the positive side of the situation. 

“I think the future of Dartmouth hockey is extremely bright — this group has a really strong foundation for future success,” he said. “I think our staff will look back very fondly on this year at the growth that individuals showed and the growth of the team.”

Sorkin, who will return for his junior season, reflected on the significance of this season for the years to come. 

“The biggest thing for me was relationships and building a bond with my teammates and growing as a family,” he said. “I learned just how important these people are in our lives going forward.”

For Markell, this year was his last hurrah — looking back, he saw the season from a historical perspective. 

“So many generations of Dartmouth hockey alumni care about this program,” Markell said. “I'm just lucky to be a part of it and to wear the jersey for four years. Hopefully I left it a better place.”

After Sunday’s game, Cashman also acknowledged that the bond between teammates is bigger than just the sport. 

“In the locker room, there’s no words,” Cashman said. “You thank the seniors for everything they’ve done, and then you let the team spend some time together, because that’s the last time those 28 guys will be in the same room, and this group went through a lot together.”

Following the conclusion of his collegiate career, Markell gave a window into the mentality of a Dartmouth hockey player.

“It’s hard to put into words how much it means to me when it comes down to all the players, coaches, and staff that came before putting in so much effort. You just want to hold yourself to that same standard,” Markell said.

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