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Rink of Fire: Dartmouth Men’s Hockey Burns Out Yale

  • Dartmouth’s Connor Dempsey handles the puck against Yale.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Dartmouth’s Connor Dempsey handles the puck against Yale.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Yale’s Joe Prescott, center, and Dartmouth’s Eric Neiley, right, race <br/>toward the puck last night.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Yale’s Joe Prescott, center, and Dartmouth’s Eric Neiley, right, race
    toward the puck last night.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • From left, Dartmouth's Eric Neiley, Tyler Sikura and Matt Lindblad celebrate their first goal of the new season.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    From left, Dartmouth's Eric Neiley, Tyler Sikura and Matt Lindblad celebrate their first goal of the new season.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth’s Connor Dempsey handles the puck against Yale.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Yale’s Joe Prescott, center, and Dartmouth’s Eric Neiley, right, race <br/>toward the puck last night.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • From left, Dartmouth's Eric Neiley, Tyler Sikura and Matt Lindblad celebrate their first goal of the new season.<br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

— Matt Lindblad confessed, after playing a noteworthy role in Dartmouth’s 7-4 ECAC men’s hockey win over Yale last night, that he’d never heard the term “firewagon hockey” before.

Now he knows.

Before a home-opening crowd of 3,021 at Thompson Arena, the Big Green seemed intent on giving fans a thrill. It did so with a pair of three-goal bursts highlighted by high-speed offensive play through the neutral zone — the very definition of that tried-and-true hockey term.

“It’s all about moving the puck forward and quickly,” said Lindblad, one of three Dartmouth forwards to enjoy two-goal nights. “Transitionally, in the neutral zone, you pick up a puck that’s kind of hanging out there, and we’re going to take it to the net. I’m looking forward to seeing us do a lot of that this season.” Grab the handrails … and the Dramamine.

Eric Robinson and Tyler Sikura joined Lindblad in the two-goal department, with Sikura adding two assists for a four-point night.

Forward Eric Neiley set up three goals, and most of Dartmouth’s strikes came with the accelerator pressed firmly to the floorboard.

Freshman Charles Grant made 35 saves for his second consecutive victory in net as Dartmouth (1-0-0 league, 2-0-1 overall) broke an 11-game winless streak against the Bulldogs (0-1-0, 1-1-1) dating back to a 7-2 Big Green win at Thompson on Feb. 23, 2008.

“It’s a fun team to watch in terms of entertainment for the fans, because we play really hard and have a really good skill level,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “It’s a fun team to play for, I think, because of the style of play, and it’s a fun team to coach.

“Today’s game is so quick; it’s an adaptation to the game. We’re playing a style that is quick, it’s hard, it’s aggressive, but it’s not dumb.” Gaudet’s promise of a more up-tempo squad played out to a T in the first period, one that saw the Big Green gain a quick lead, give it up in sloppy fashion, then regain it and build upon it.

Fresh off an early penalty kill, Lindblad scored the first of his two first-stanza goals at 3:27, following a Neiley shot after forcing a turnover in the Yale end. The lead lasted exactly 30 seconds, long enough for the Bulldogs’ Stu Wilson to round a Big Green defender and bank a crease pass off Grant’s stick.

Undaunted, Dartmouth had its lead back in less than a minute and a two-goal cushion less than two minutes after that. Robinson — whose late-game score forged last Friday’s tie with Yale at the Ivy Shootout — zipped a shot over Yale netminder Nick Maricic’s glove at 4:46 to cap a jailbreak counterattack. Lindblad added his second on a jam follow of a Dustin Walsh bid at 6:33, a goal that survived video review.

Yale coach Keith Allain showed no desire to call a timeout to calm his team, which picked up the physical play the rest of the period. The kind of mistake young teams make — a defenseman uncertain to pinch at the blue line or retreat — allowed the Bulldogs to pull one back at 18:34, Antoine Laganiere punching a Kenny Agostino rebound through Grant’s pads.

“I thought that our guys fought hard right to the end,” Allain said, “but you’re not going to win many hockey games when you give up seven goals.” Dartmouth kept pounding on the gas in the middle period, building a four-goal lead with three strikes on three straight shots, all with different manpower circumstances. Again, the assault hit Yale quickly and decisively.

Brandon McNally (one goal, one assist) took a chip pass from Robinson, turned Bulldog defender Tommy Fallen at the right circle and slipped a shot past Maricic’s stick at 9:59 for a 4-2 edge. Yale’s Alex Ward drew a slashing minor at 11:07, allowing Robinson to bury a blue-dart point blast on the ensuing power-play faceoff four seconds later.

With teammate Jesse Beamish in the sin bin for a cross-check, Sikura burned Maricic with a shorthanded goal at 12:05, blocking a Fallen slapshot and pinging a two-on-one wrister off the right post. Yale had the last say — Laganiere’s second of the night on the same power play — but the visitors also had a bigger deficit staring at them come the horn.

The Bulldogs got the first goal of the final period on Trent Ruffolo’s first of the year at 8:48, but the Big Green barely blinked. A Neiley-caused turnover outside the Yale blue line freed Sikura for his second snipe of the night, a left-circle snapper past Maricic’s glove with 6:51 to play.

“You saw a pretty good glimpse of what our team hopes to do in the future,” Lindblad said. “We have a bunch of talent up front, and defensively we’re pretty solid. We keep it simple. Chuckie, over the course of the game, got better in net. I thought what we saw out there was a pretty good idea of what you’re going to see for the rest of the season.” Buckle your seat belts, sound the siren and hold on tight. This could be a fun ride.

∎ Ice Chips: Maricic finished with 16 saves for the Bulldogs. … Former Yale and Hanover High forward Denny Kearney has landed with Louisiana of the Southern Professional Hockey League, netting a goal and two assists in the Lafayette-based IceGators’ first two games. Kearney spent last year at Trenton of the ECHL, playing 33 games before an injury ended his season early. … In addition to Doug Jones (Gwinnett), former Dartmouth forward Matt Reber is back in the ECHL this winter, returning to the Stockton Thunder after splitting last year with the California club and the Utah Grizzlies. A 2011 graduate, Reber is 3-2-5 through his first six contests. … Ex-Dartmouth goalie Nick Boucher continues to recover from offseason hip surgery. Boucher opted to have his hips repaired after playing in pain much of last season, his fifth with the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Komets. The 2003 grad is expected to miss the season for the Komets, who moved to the ECHL this year from the Central League. … Dartmouth returns to action tonight against Brown, one week after handing the Bears a 4-0 loss in the Ivy Shootout finale.

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