No Doubt: Big Green Done
Dartmouth leftwinger Brandon McNally, left, and Union center Max Novak, go after the loose puck at center ice during the ECAC college hockey playoffs at Messa Rink at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Friday, March 14, 2014. Dartmouth left winger Jesse Beamish watches the play from behind. (AP Photo/The Daily Gazette, Peter R. Barber) TROY, SCHENECTADY; SARATOGA SPRINGS; ALBANY AND AMSTERDAM OUT
Schenectady, n.y. — The words of Phil Collins will ring around Union College’s Achilles Center for a bit after the developments of Saturday night’s ECAC quarterfinal with Dartmouth:
There must be some misunderstanding,
There must be some kind of mistake …
Nope. No mistake. The top-ranked Dutchmen are headed back to the conference tournament semifinals after a 4-2 elimination of the Big Green in front of an overflow crowd of 2,147 at Messa Rink.
No misunderstanding something else: Dartmouth (10-20-4) matched Union (26-6-4) shot for shot, hit for hit and (almost) penalty for penalty, unwilling to see its season end. It did, ultimately, on third-line center Max Novak’s backhand goal with 10:51 left in regulation and Daniel Ciampini’s empty-netter in the final minute.
Brandon McNally and Tim O’Brien netted power-play goals 83 seconds apart in the first period for Dartmouth, which dropped a quarterfinal to the Dutchmen for the second postseason in a row.
“I thought we were really good on the power play and really good penalty killing both nights,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “We were shooting the puck and we were around the net. We scored a couple of nice goals and had a couple of nice chances, rebounds that we couldn’t catch. It wasn’t from a lack of effort.”
For most of the night, Union was its own worst enemy.
Looking to beat Dartmouth into submission as much as on the scoreboard, the Dutchmen skated a groove to the penalty box for the first two periods. The parade began not long after Mike Vecchione’s opening goal after 4½ minutes, but it was only when Union returned to its disciplined ways in the final stanza that its excellence finally won the day.
“It was clear to the guys how important it is,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “Our leaders did a good job. They know what to do if you want to keep playing on.”
Dartmouth didn’t waste time drawing its first penalty. Union’s mistake was answering in triplicate.
A Charlie Mosey elbow just 1:43 into the contest didn’t net the game’s first goal, but it did get the hosts’ feet moving. Within three minutes of the minor, Vecchione latched onto a Daniel Carr crease pass to beat Big Green netminder Charles Grant (27 saves) for a 1-0 lead.
Dartmouth then did something it hadn’t done since a 5-3 win over Princeton on Feb. 1 —score two power-play goals in a game. The Big Green did it in short order, too.
O’Brien drew a hold from Union blueliner Noah Henry on a counterattack, which McNally converted on a Grant Opperman rebound at 11:38. When the Dutchmen’s Shane Gostisbehere elbowed a Dartmouth forward behind the Union net, O’Brien snapped a Jesse Beamish cross-slot feed over the glove of Union goalie Colin Stevens (33 saves) at 13:01 for the Big Green’s first lead of the series.
“I think we just came up with some pucks,” Dartmouth captain Tyler Sikura said. “Both were kind of broken plays that we just won battles and were able to make plays off of.”
The sound of a referee’s whistle, a point to a Union player and the sound of Collins’ voice — which accompanied every home-team penalty, all eight of them on the evening — began to grate on the Dutchmen faithful as the second period continued.
There was no misunderstanding when Carr tied the game at 18:45. Vecchione won a battle behind Grant’s net and fed Carr in the right slot. Grant made the initial stop but lost the puck; Carr banged into the Dartmouth netminder chasing the rebound, finally pushing into the vacated cage.
Likewise on Novak’s game-winner at 9:09 of the third. Settling the ricochet of a Jeff Taylor point blast to Grant’s left, Novak had enough time to shift the biscuit to his backhand to tuck his shot high inside the left post.
“It started with (defenseman) Sebastien (Gingras) making a great play with a great pass to Taylor,” Novak said. “I managed to squeak it through.”
“I think we got a break,” Bennett added. “Novak is a bit-time player, and he gets big-time goals.”
Ciampini clinched the win by hitting the empty net from 70 feet at 19:08. Union had figured it out by then, avoiding the sin bin for the final 20 minutes of play.
“It’s how our players react,” Bennett said, “and that was about our leaders of our team.”
It left no misunderstanding at all on who survived and who took a ride home, a season extended for one, completed for the other.
Ice Chips: Neither team changed its lineup from Friday’s contest. … Dartmouth’s seven power-play chances in the first two periods were more than the Big Green had received in any full game this season. … Big Green senior assistant captain Taylor Boldt turned 24 on Saturday. … Seen wiggling to the music during the pregame skate, Dartmouth defenseman Geoff Ferguson showed his in-game chill by gloving a loose puck in traffic to the left of his goal and throwing it backhand out of trouble. Yeah, it should be a penalty, but it was too cool to call. … Former Big Green forward Matt Lindblad picked up 8:25 of ice time and beat Carolina’s Riley Nash in his only faceoff attempt during his debut for the Boston Bruins in Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Hurricanes. … Dartmouth loses Boldt and two other seniors, defenseman-wing Nick Lovejoy and goalie Cab Morris, to graduation. Senior forward Eric Robinson, who sustained a shoulder injury in practice after the Big Green’s second game of the season, will return for a fifth year.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.