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Dartmouth Hockey Handles Vermont, 4-2 

  • Dartmouth's Nick Bligh (14) looks to drive past UVM's Michael Paliotta in Hanover. (<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Dartmouth's Nick Bligh (14) looks to drive past UVM's Michael Paliotta in Hanover. (
    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth Head Coach Bob Gaudet gets high fives from young fans before taking on University of Vermont. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Dartmouth Head Coach Bob Gaudet gets high fives from young fans before taking on University of Vermont. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth's Nick Bligh (14) looks to drive past UVM's Michael Paliotta in Hanover. (<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Dartmouth Head Coach Bob Gaudet gets high fives from young fans before taking on University of Vermont. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

Hanover — NBC Sports Network commentator Pierre McGuire was in desperate need of a bathroom last night, minutes after concluding that channel’s national broadcast of the Dartmouth College-Vermont men’s hockey game. Steered toward the Big Green locker room by coach Bob Gaudet, the former NHL bench boss opened the metal door and utter delight spilled into the Thompson Arena hallway.

Inside, players were clapping, shouts echoed and sweat-soaked shirts were being peeled off.

Reveling in the aftermath of its 4-2 nonconference victory, the Big Green skaters cranked up Die Young, the latest hit from electro-pop singer Ke$ha:

Wild childs, looking’ good

Livin’ hard, just like we should

Don’t care who’s watching when we tearing it up

That magic we got, nobody can touch

At 7-2-2 and with its next game being a Dec. 30 crack at national No. 1 New Hampshire, these are heady times for Dartmouth. The upcoming holiday break is all good and well, but the No. 10 Big Green wants nothing more for Christmas than to keep playing like it has been of late. And no one played better last night than senior Dustin Walsh, who scored his team’s second and third goals.

“He had a phenomenal game; he was really moving,” Gaudet said of the lanky, 6-foot-3 wing. “He’s had a couple of just incredible practices the last week and you could feel it coming. Those were two huge goals for us on two great individual plays.”

Tied 1-1 after a period, Dartmouth needed only 29 seconds of the middle stanza to take the lead for good. On a rush up ice, Walsh accepted a Tyler Sikura pass from the left side and picked an upper corner of the net from the top of the slot.

The UVM defensemen “backed right in and I used one of them as a screen,” said Walsh, who was a sixth-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2009. “I don’t think the goalie saw it.”

Dartmouth went up 3-1 with four minutes remaining in the second period when Walsh caught an Eric Robinson pass from the left corner while he was hustling through the near circle and into the slot. Despite being held by Anders Franzon, Walsh managed to get off a backhand shot and then used the same side of his stick blade to flip in the rebound at the far post.

Walsh’s tour-de-force second period has been some time coming. The senior tore the labrum in one hip last season when he absorbed an open-ice bodycheck during a home game. He wound up playing in just eight contests by the campaign’s end. After undergoing arthroscopic surgery in March and rehabilitating throughout the spring and summer, Walsh held himself out of Dartmouth’s opening weekend because of lingering discomfort.

“Every game it’s coming and it feels like my skating is getting better,” said Walsh, adding that improving his acceleration has been an area of emphasis. “That’s the thing I lost the most with the surgery.”

Dartmouth struck for a 1-0 lead with the second shot of the game and in the third minute. Mike Keenan’s shot from the left point clanked off the post and in, beating goaltender Brody Hoffman. The Catamounts pulled into a 1-1 deadlock seven minutes later when an innocuous-looking shot from the left wall and off the rush was served up as a plump rebound by goaltender Charles Grant. UVM’s Yvan Pattyn knocked it home from the inside of the right circle.

After Walsh’s heroics, Dartmouth’s final goal came early in the third period when Sikura finished off a 2 on 1 rush by banging a Matt Lindblad pass inside the near post. UVM (3-8-3) got another goal from Pattyn to close the scoring with seven minutes to play.

“More than any other year I’ve been here, there’s a winning mentality on our team,” Walsh said. “We go into a game expecting to win and if we get down, there’s not a ‘Here we go again’ feeling. We know we’re capable of beating any team and we’ve been able to wear them down a bit. There aren’t many defensemen who can contain us.”

Notes: NBC’s television crew consisted of 42 people and eight cameras. … In addition to a Toronto Maple Leafs scout, New York Islanders assistant to the general manager Kerry Gwydir watched the game in person. ... With Dartmouth forward Eric Neiley returning from injury after two games out of the lineup, fellow sophomore Jesse Beamish was squeezed out of action. Dartmouth’s other scratches were Billy Fitzgerald, Mark Goggin, Rick Pinkston, Connor Dempsey, Jason Bourgea and Alex Goodship. … Vermont leads the teams’ series, 47-26-5, but the Catamounts had a four-game winning streak against the Big Green snapped. … Dartmouth ran its penalty-killing streak to 30 consecutive chances.

… The Big Green is 6-0 at home this season. … Dartmouth is 8-16 against Hockey East foes since that league assumed its current formation in 2005. … From the Obscure Statistics Department: last night’s announced crowd of 4,112 was the 50th-largest gathering in program history. Atop the charts is a 1981 contest against Brown that drew 5,048.

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