P/sunny
45°
P/sunny
Hi 53° | Lo 23°

Union-Busted

Big Green’s Season Suffers a Swift Ending in Quarterfinals

  • Union’s Daniel Carr, right, handles the puck next to Dartmouth’s Brad Schierhorn during last night’s ECAC quarterfinal game. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)

    Union’s Daniel Carr, right, handles the puck next to Dartmouth’s Brad Schierhorn during last night’s ECAC quarterfinal game. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)

  • Union’s Max Novak is tripped up by Dartmouth’s Ryan Bullock. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)

    Union’s Max Novak is tripped up by Dartmouth’s Ryan Bullock. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)

  • Union’s Matt Wilkins, front, is checked along the boards by Dartmouth’s Rick Pinkston last night. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)

    Union’s Matt Wilkins, front, is checked along the boards by Dartmouth’s Rick Pinkston last night. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)

  • Union’s Daniel Carr, right, handles the puck next to Dartmouth’s Brad Schierhorn during last night’s ECAC quarterfinal game. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)
  • Union’s Max Novak is tripped up by Dartmouth’s Ryan Bullock. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)
  • Union’s Matt Wilkins, front, is checked along the boards by Dartmouth’s Rick Pinkston last night. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)

Schenectady, n.y. — Charles Grant will have better birthdays. And the Dartmouth College men’s hockey team will have better endings.

Fueled by a goal within the game’s first two minutes and a three-goal lead by 20, fourth-seeded Union completed a two-game sweep of fifth-seeded Dartmouth in the ECAC quarterfinals last night, 5-2, at Messa Rink. Junior Kevin Sullivan bracketed Union’s offense with goals to start and end the assault, sending the Dutchmen (19-12-5) back to the conference’s championship in Atlantic City, N.J., next weekend.

Union will return to the Jersey shore as defending champions one season after marching to the program’s first NCAA Frozen Four appearance.

“They’ll find a way to play competitively against whoever they play,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said of the Dutchmen. “They’re a pretty complete team. There’s not a team in our league that has the defensemen they do in terms of moving the puck.

“Up until they wheel it around in the second period a couple of times, I thought we did an excellent job against their defensemen. … They’re a pretty competitive team.”

The Big Green (15-14-5) couldn’t afford to play from behind, yet had to after Sullivan’s opening strike. Eric Neiley and Dustin Walsh scored for Dartmouth, with Walsh’s coming in his last collegiate contest.

“That was a goal from the start of the year, so that’s one step toward our final goals,” Union forward Kyle Bodie said of the series victory. “I thought we had two good games here. We’re going to have another good week of practice and get back at it on Friday.”

The Big Green needed all of the first period to get on track in Friday’s opening 4-1 loss. Dartmouth required half the time to come to life last night, but the result was the same: a 1-0 deficit.

Union wasted little time putting Dartmouth on its heels. Matt Hatch won a corner battle to Grant’s right, centering to an unmarked Sullivan for the jam just 92 seconds into the contest.

“I think it was pretty similar to (Friday) night; we had the momentum right off the bat,” Sullivan said. “We started finishing hits and sticking to our systems pretty well. I think it gave us a lot of momentum, having the first goal, and I think it set them back a little bit.”

The Big Green finally woke up in the second half of the period and forced several good saves from Union’s Troy Grosenick (28 saves). Neiley tested the Dutchman netminder at 13 minutes with a harsh wrister that ticked the goalie’s glove. Grosenick had to be on his toes a minute later when the Green’s Alex Goodship back-skated away from two defenders to the edge of the crease, finding Grosenick’s pads from point-blank range.

Dartmouth gained a measure of karma in the final minute with a quick whistle from referee Joe Carusone. Starting on his 21st birthday, Grant stopped a high-slot wrister from Hatch, but the puck rested tantalizingly — and unsecured — between his ankles. Carusone killed the action just as Sullivan stuffed the puck into the net. No goal.

But Grant’s luck ran out within the first five minutes of the second stanza. Bodie doubled Union’s lead at 2:37, following his own blocked shot from the mid-slot.

And brilliant right-to-left puck movement from Greg Coburn and Sullivan set up blueliner Shane Gostisbehere’s roof-top wrister from the left circle at 4:47 for a 3-0 lead, setting Gaudet’s goaltender change into motion. Cab Morris replaced Grant in net.

“The goal that (Gostisbehere) scored, I don’t think any goalie gets to that puck, not at the college level,” Gaudet said. “It’s a great play. When they wheel around, they’re a great team.

“I changed the goalie to change the momentum,” Gaudet added. “Cab’s a veteran guy. He just wanted to go in and play.”

Union wouldn’t get a shot on Morris for 10 minutes after the switch. Meanwhile, Dartmouth cut into the Dutchmen’s lead and came close to doing more.

Neiley burned Union’s vaunted power play — ranked third in the nation entering the weekend — for a shorthanded strike at 9:20 to get the Green on the board.

The sophomore forced Union’s Cole Ikkala down on a right-wing counterattack, and Neiley’s centering pass hit Ikkala’s stick and snuck through Grosenick.

Matt Lindblad briefly gave Union hearts a flutter by knocking in an Eric Robinson pass at 13:04 on the power play; the officials correctly wiped out the goal, ruling Lindblad gloved the puck into the net.

The period ended with Dartmouth captain Mike Keenan hammering Sullivan with a mid-ice check and the Big Green getting a power play to open the third thanks to Daniel Carr’s retaliation.

The Big Green, however, didn’t pressure the Union net on the man-up, and the home team netted the back-breaker on Josh Jooris’ unassisted 25-footer following a faceoff win to Morris’ right at 11:15. Walsh picked Gostisbehere’s pocket to cut the gap to 4-2 with 4:57 left, and Sullivan closed the scoresheet at 19:00 with Union’s only power-play goal of the weekend.

“The hardest thing in any sport is ending a team’s season,” Bodie said. “We knew they were going to have stretches where they were going to carry the play. We just knew that when that did happen, we had to buckle down defensively. Even if they had sustained pressure, it’s the old saying: Bend, don’t break.”

And by doing so, the Dutchmen blew out the candles on Dartmouth’s year.

Ice Chips: Grant recorded 12 saves and Morris finished with 13 for the Big Green … Sophomore defenseman Andy Simpson returned to the Dartmouth lineup from an illness. Gaudet scratched freshman Brett Patterson, a forward who filled in Simpson’s slot in Friday’s loss as well as the entire Harvard series. … If nothing else, referee Chris Ciamaga has a future in rink maintenance. Ciamaga gave Messa workers an assist when they missed a softball-sized chunk of snow while clearing ice shavings midway through the first period, rapping on the Zamboni door and handing them his contribution. “Iceberg,” he said. … Dartmouth graduates five: Walsh, Keenan, Goodship, Jason Bourgea and Mark Goggin. The Montreal Canadiens hold Walsh’s pro rights, so some late-season professional action is a possibility. … Keenan was Dartmouth’s first two-year solo captain since Dick Rondeau in the mid-1940s. … Goggin missed the entire year with injuries.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.