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Net Gain From Maritimes

An Odd Turn to Nova Scotia Uncovers Big Green’s Newest Goalie

  • Dartmouth freshman goalie Charles Grant has seen his playing time steadily increase this season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Dartmouth freshman goalie Charles Grant has seen his playing time steadily increase this season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth men’s hockey Head Coach Bob Gaudet took an unusual route to uncover goalie Charles Grant. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Dartmouth men’s hockey Head Coach Bob Gaudet took an unusual route to uncover goalie Charles Grant. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Dartmouth men's hockey team practices at Thompson Arena for their next round in the conference playoffs. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    The Dartmouth men's hockey team practices at Thompson Arena for their next round in the conference playoffs. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth teammates (from left) Cab Morris, Charles Grant and James Kruger talk during a break at practice. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Dartmouth teammates (from left) Cab Morris, Charles Grant and James Kruger talk during a break at practice. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth hockey Taylor Boldt takes a drink during  practice. (<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Dartmouth hockey Taylor Boldt takes a drink during practice. (
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth freshman goalie Charles Grant has seen his playing time steadily increase this season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • Dartmouth men’s hockey Head Coach Bob Gaudet took an unusual route to uncover goalie Charles Grant. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • The Dartmouth men's hockey team practices at Thompson Arena for their next round in the conference playoffs. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Dartmouth teammates (from left) Cab Morris, Charles Grant and James Kruger talk during a break at practice. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Dartmouth hockey Taylor Boldt takes a drink during  practice. (<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Hanover — The art to finding a good college hockey recruit runs similar to panning for gold. Sometimes a valuable nugget just falls into your lap.

Charles Grant is one such nugget. Over his 16-year tenure, Dartmouth College men’s hockey coach Bob Gaudet has built his rosters mainly with recruits from Ontario, western Canada, midwest U.S. junior leagues and New England prep schools. Never, until this season, has he been able to include a Nova Scotia native on the list.

Spotted at an Ottawa camp and tested in a slightly off-the-radar junior league, freshman goaltender Grant has become an important item in Gaudet’s toolbox heading into this weekend’s best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series at Union College. Having started in goal in six of the last eight Dartmouth games, including the two winning contests in last weekend’s first-round rally past Harvard, it would be no surprise to see Grant in the net against the Skating Dutchmen tonight at Messa Rink.

“Some of the kids in the Maritimes are a little bit under the radar, because people don’t as readily go there to recruit as heavily as Ontario,” Gaudet said prior to a Thompson Arena practice this week. “He was a good goalie, saw a lot of rubber on the teams that he played for and is very athletic. … I’ve been very impressed with him. His calm demeanor, his athletic ability, he’s a real good student of the game, well-coached coming in. Just a good guy that I think has a really good upside.”

Assistant coach John Rose gets the credit for finding Grant, Gaudet said.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Grant was participating in an international camp near the Canadian capital two years ago when Rose first spotted him. Rose and fellow Dartmouth assistant coach Dave Peters monitored Grant’s progress from there.

It all came in a somewhat out-of-the-way place: The Maritime Hockey League, a Junior A circuit of 11 squads in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. According to the league’s website, the MHL’s Class of 2012 included 27 players who committed to college hockey. Three went to NCAA schools, just one to Division I.

“It’s still not as exposed as it could be,” said Grant, that sole D-I recruit. “The league there is a lot older; they seem to go with the guys who have just finished their Major Junior careers, (so) it’s a pretty strong league. It was a big adjustment the first year that I played, and then it obviously made a big difference.”

Drafted by the Yarmouth Mariners, Grant improved steadily over three seasons in the MHL. His goals-against average dropped from 3.91 over 18 games three winters ago to 2.54 over 36 contests in his final season as the Berwick, Nova Scotia native guided the Mariners to the MHL’s championship series.

Although Yarmouth would lose the Kent Cup title in seven games to the Woodstock Slammers, Grant made enough of an impression to earn the series’ most valuable player award. That honor came on top of first-team all-league mention and player-of-the-week plaudits twice over his final two campaigns as a Mariner.

“The first year, the goalie in front of me was extremely good, probably the top goalie in the league, so I had to learn from him about his habits on and off the ice,” said Grant, 20, who committed to Dartmouth prior to last winter’s third year in Yarmouth. “I tried to mimic them, I guess. Then the second year I just got a chance to play, so it was a lot easier to just go out there and learn from the results of the game and just adjust.”

With junior Cab Morris returning as incumbent starter, Gaudet had Grant and freshman James Kruger as potential reserves at the start of the season. Grant has gradually insinuated himself deeper into the plans of the Dartmouth coach, who has historically ridden his starting netminders for multiple games in a row.

Morris played well last Friday in the Big Green’s series-opening 2-1 loss to Harvard, making 22 saves as his Dartmouth teammates failed to capitalize sufficiently on 40 shots on goal. Acting on “a hunch, a gut feel,” according to Gaudet, Grant got the call in net Saturday; the freshman made 23 stops in that 4-1 win, following up with 28 more Sunday — 16 in the third period alone — in the 6-3 series-clinching win.

“Even if Chuck’s not making unbelievable saves, his calming presence resonates with the rest of the team,” Dartmouth forward Eric Robinson said after Sunday’s victory. “He’s been that way all year, and we knew he’d be that way in the playoffs.”

Not only has Dartmouth pulled from Nova Scotia for the first time in Gaudet’s stint as head coach, it’s also found a debut prospect from New Brunswick (freshman defenseman Geoff Ferguson, by way of Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep and USHL Sioux City). Ferguson has suited up for every Big Green game this season.

Recruiting is about establishing and nurturing contacts. Dartmouth now appears to have a new locale from which to mine potential Big Green competitors.

“There are so many leagues out there and only so many leagues you can go out to,” Peters said. “You hear word that you really want to see a player, and now with the Internet you do have video and you have the stats, so you can track players. But because we did get Charles, we probably will make a trip up there again.”

Ice Chips: This is the first ECAC postseason meeting between the Big Green and Union, which joined the league in 1991-92. … Dartmouth owns a win and a tie with the Dutchmen this season. The Big Green used goals from Brandon McNally, Robinson and Matt Lindblad as the foundation for a 3-2 win at Thompson over then-No. 8 Union on Nov. 10. Dartmouth rallied for a 2-2 draw at Messa on Feb. 1, with Eric Neiley and Rick Pinkston denting the net. Morris was the goaler of record in both contests. … An NCAA Frozen Four participant last year, Union boasts three offensive-minded defensemen in Shayne Gotisbehere, Mat Bodie and Greg Coburn who all rank in the top 20 nationally in points per game. … Gotisbehere, a sophomore, was a member of the gold medal-winning United States roster at the IIHF Junior World Championships in Russia earlier this winter. … All series games will start at 7 p.m. WFRD (99.3 FM) will provide live radio coverage of the series, while online paysite American One Sports will offer a live Internet stream.

VALLEY NEWS staff writer Tris Wykes contributed to this report. Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.