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Holiday Bash: Big Green Tops No. 16 UNH in Tourney Opener

  • Dartmouth College's Matt Baker (14) makes a break past University of New Hampshire's Benton Maass (28) and heads toward the net on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 during a game between Dartmouth and UNH at Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • University of New Hampshire's Jason Salvaggio (10)collides with Dartmouth College's Clay Han (23) in an attempt to get the puck on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, during a game between Dartmouth and UNH at Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College's Tim Shoup (5) gets control of the puck on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, during a game between Dartmouth and the University of New Hampshire at Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, December 29, 2017

Hanover — The Dartmouth College men’s hockey team dressed only six upperclassmen skaters on Friday night against No. 16 New Hampshire during the first day of the Ledyard Holiday Classic. The Big Green, however, received plenty of production from its more callow performers during a 3-1 victory.

Matt Baker, a freshman who averaged better than a point a game in junior hockey last winter, struck for his third and fourth collegiate goals during a 92-second span of the first period. Sophomores Connor Yau, Will Graber and Jamie McLaughlin each posted assists, and senior goaltender Devin Buffalo made 35 saves.

Dartmouth (4-8-1) faces No. 17 Minnesota-Duluth (9-9-2) at 7 p.m. tonight, and Yale tackles UNH at 4 during the tournament’s second and final day. UMD is without five players who are participating in the World Junior Championships, but still pinned a 5-0 loss on the Bulldogs (5-8-0) during Friday’s first game.

“Our young guys need to play like veterans now that they’ve gotten some playing time,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet, whose team produced a mostly mistake-free game. “We made simple plays with the puck up ice. That’s so important, especially against UNH, which is so good at transition.”

The last time these teams played, the Big Green hung a 5-1 loss to UNH last December at Thompson Arena. The last time Dartmouth beat the Wildcats twice in a row? Back in March 1979 and January 1980. Not since 1936 and 1942 had the Big Green upended New Hampshire and held it to a single goal in each clash.

“We’ve been focusing a lot on defense and how it leads to chances on the offensive side,” said Baker, who posted 72 points in 68 games in British Columbia’s second-tier junior league last season. “That’s a huge adjustment coming out of juniors, but you have to make it if you want to get on the ice.”

Said Gaudet: “It’s counterintuitive, but sometimes when you’re a scorer, you’re allowed to get away with shortcuts in other areas.”

New Hampshire entered with the second-best penalty-killing unit in NCAA Division I, but surrendered two man-advantage tallies. The Wildcats appeared disinterested at times, botching passes, flubbing clear shots and committing eight of the game’s 12 penalties. Dartmouth’s performance was in sharp contrast.

“This team doesn’t need a cheerleader behind the bench, because it’s so good with its small habits,” Gaudet said. “They’re engaged, and they notice the small things. That you have to sprint to the bench on line changes, block shots, chip pucks out of the defensive zone and battle for them down low in the offensive zone. 

“Guys aren’t trying to do something fancy with the puck late in a shift and at the other team’s blue line. That stuff gives us a chance.”

New Hampshire appeared to have opened the scoring during the seventh minute when Buffalo’s glove, with the puck in it, crossed the goal line during a sequence in the crease. The referees ruled, however, that he had frozen the biscuit before his mitt was pushed over the stripe by a UNH stick.

The hosts struck for the first actual goal during the 10th minute and during a delayed penalty. Yau’s shot from center point and through traffic in the slot bounced to Alex Jasiek below the left circle. The junior flipped the puck atop the crease, where it hit Baker’s chest and went in.

Dartmouth went up, 2-1, after Jasiek circled the net on his backhand and jammed a shot into goalie Daniel Tirone’s pads. Baker, coming through the slot the other way, put home the rebound.

The Wildcats (9-8-1) halved their deficit two minutes before the first intermission. A UNH player scooted out of the corner on Buffalo’s glove side and had a shot blocked by the netminder. However, Buffalo wound up on his rear end just outside his crease, and Chris Miller scored by firing a low shot from the far side of the low slot.

UNH committed five consecutive penalties during the second period, and it finally bit the Wildcats with two minutes remaining in the stanza. With Dartmouth up a man, Will Graber’s shot from the left point caromed in off Quin Foreman’s backside for his first collegiate tally.

The Big Green, which has won two in a row dating back to an upset of No. 2 Denver earlier this month, goes for three consecutive triumphs tonight against a foe that reached last season’s national title game and won the 2011 NCAA Division I crown.

“The Denver weekend was big for our confidence,” said Baker, noting that the Big Green lost, 1-0, the night before its upset of the Pioneers. “Knowing that we could keep up with them at a high pace was huge.”

Notes: Gaudet, who’s in his 21st year behind the Big Green bench and has a career record at his alma mater of 293-300-72, said he signed a new contract last spring and wants to continue coaching for the foreseeable future. … Last season’s captain, Carl Hesler, who was to be a senior this season, will not return to action for the winter term, as had been described as a possibility. Hesler, who hasn’t attended classes since the spring, declined via email to give a reason for his absence. Also out for the rest of the season is senior wing Kevin Neiley, who’s battled a knee injury. Gaudet said the Pennsylvania native elected not to return after the holiday break, despite posting three points in his last game. … Since Buffalo returned from five weeks off with a groin injury for the Denver series, he has a 2.01 GAA, a .945 save percentage and has stopped 104 of 110 shots. Both of those latter numbers are the most of any Division I goaltender. … Five Dartmouth women’s ice hockey players donned skates to help corral foam pucks thrown on the ice as part of a between-periods contest. The Big Green (3-9-0) hosts UConn (4-7-7) at 3 p.m. on Sunday. … ECAC supervisor of officials Paul Stewart took in Friday’s Dartmouth game from section 13 and donned a fur hat from the Russian Red Army hockey club after the contest. … After appearing in 15 games as a freshman, defenseman Ben DiMaio has yet to play as a sophomore. The Boston College High graduate once owned a fish he named “The Dominator” after NHL goaltender Dominick Hasek. … McLaughlin made his season debut as the fourth-line right wing after playing in 10 games last season. … Longtime UNH coach Dick Umile, who plans to retire after this winter, indicates his desire to have the Wildcats change on the fly with a piercing double whistle audible throughout the arena. “If I tried that, my teeth would come out of my mouth,” Gaudet joked. … Corey Kalk, Dartmouth’s leading scorer with eight points, is rated a minus-9.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.