Breaks Go Big Green’s Way In Overtime Win
A snowflake decal on the back of Dartmouth College forward Grant Opperman reads "Torin". The Big Green has worn the stickers during recent games in memory of Torin Tucker, a Dartmouth nordic skier who collapsed and died during a race this month. Tucker was a member of Chi Heorot fraternity with many of the school's hockey players. Valley News - Tris Wykes
Dartmouth College goaltender Charles Grant watches a shot by Brown's Matt Lorito (19) settle in the net midway through the third period of the team's ECAC game Friday at Thompson Arena. Valley News - Tris Wykes
Hanover — When the Dartmouth College men’s hockey team began the season 0-8, it seemed every bounce and every break went against the men in green. Even throughout December and January, pucks hopped over sticks and resulted in costly turnovers. The referees seemed biased. Losses mounted.
And then … a turnaround.
Visiting Princeton was handily dispatched on Feb. 1 in front of full stands. Last weekend’s road trip to upstate New York resulted in victories over St. Lawrence and Clarkson. Friday night, the Big Green used an overtime goal to best Brown, 2-1, at Thompson Arena, after losing twice to the Bears earlier in the campaign.
Tyler Sikura’s slap shot from center point deflected off the cross bar and down into the net 51 seconds into overtime and on a power play. The tally was just the captain’s second goal of the season after he scored 12 last winter, but it came at a crucial time.
“I was so excited to see that puck bounce down, rather than up,” said relieved Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet. “Faith can only go so far and it can’t be completely blind.
“We played some good hockey and didn’t get good results, but the guys have had such resilience. I feel great about them staying on it with some real positive energy.”
The Big Green improved to 7-16-3 overall and 6-12-1 in ECAC play. Dartmouth has won four of its last five contests as it battles for home ice in the first round of the ECAC playoffs, which begin March 7.
The 12-team conference’s top four teams earn a first-round bye, while the fifth- through eighth-place squads host the ninth- through 12th-place teams in best-of-three series. Dartmouth is in 11th place, five points ahead of last-place Princeton, one behind 10th-place Harvard and three points behind ninth-place Brown. Eighth-place St. Lawrence is a point ahead of the Bears (10-13-3, 7-11-1).
Sikura suffered a knee injury during a home game on Dec. 30 and only returned last weekend, notching two points during the road trip. The junior said he didn’t see his winning strike go in, but heard it draw iron and knew it must have crossed the goal line by the fans’ roar and his teammates’ joyous reaction.
“I paused for a second and then everyone came skating over to me,” Sikura said. “This is a pretty special moment and it came after a lot of hard work and frustration. It’s hard when bounces aren’t going your way, but it’s even worse when you’re hurt and can’t contribute in any way.”
Said Gaudet: “It was good to get our captain back because he’s a settling influence for our team.”
Dartmouth opened the scoring during the second period’s sixth minute when Brad Schierhorn redirected a soft Andy Simpson shot from the point. The Bears forged a tie with 12 minutes to play after Eric Neiley was penalized for taking down a foe in the neutral zone.
Holding the fort for the hosts was goaltender Charles Grant, who made 24 saves and has allowed a lone goal during each of his last three games. Brown hit four posts, but Gaudet said he thought that was as much because of Grant’s positioning as the Bears’ errant aim.
“I like to think our goaltender is fabulous and I don’t think there’s a lot of net to shoot at,” the coach said. “He’s not giving them much.”
Dartmouth hosts defending national champion Yale tonight. The Bulldogs are fourth in the ECAC at 14-8-4 overall and 9-7-3 in conference play. The Big Green won the teams’ only previous meeting this season, 4-1.
Notes: Dartmouth last won an overtime game on Jan. 21, 2012, in a victory at Colgate. The Big Green had been 0-5-10 in extra time since that contest…. Dartmouth played without defenseman Ryan Bullock and center Troy Crema, both injured, and wing Brandon McNally, who served a suspension for a face-masking penalty incurred during the team’s last game. … Defenseman Brett Patterson recently had surgery on a wrist and is out for the rest of the season. … Garrett Husband, who began working on the Dartmouth statistics crew in 2003, worked his final game Friday before a move to Boston. … Schierhorn has scored three goals in his last two games. … Orford native Nick Lovejoy, a defenseman playing center Friday out of necessity, won 10-of-12 faceoffs. … Brown coach Brendan Whittet, a former Dartmouth assistant who left for his current job after the 2008-09 season, is 2-10-1 against the Big Green and 0-6 at Thompson Arena with the Bears.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.