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For Green, Tie Is a Moral Win

Hanover — There were times in the not-so-distant past when the Dartmouth College men’s hockey team might have been a bit down after an ECAC tie. Not this season and not against visiting Cornell on Saturday night, however. The Big Green’s gutty, 1-1 tie against the No. 12 Big Red left the hosts upbeat and optimistic.

“The game’s played on the boards against Cornell, because they’re really good (in the corners and behind the net), but our guys met them head-on,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet, whose team played its sixth overtime contest with the Big Red in the teams’ last 10 meetings. “The guys are disappointed we didn’t win, but we could have and I thought we were fierce. We got better as the game went on, from our goaltender on out. That’s a really big step for us.”

Dartmouth is 3-13-3 overall and 2-9-1 in ECAC play while Cornell is 9-4-4 and 5-3-3. However, Big Red coach Mike Schaefer said his squad was lucky to exit with a point, thanks mainly to diminutive goaltender Andy Iles, who made 32 saves under frequent duress.

“I thought they outplayed us tonight, especially away from the puck,” Schaefer said. Iles “was a 10 out of 10 and the rest of our guys, as far as being ready to play and get after it, were probably a five out of 10. Without him tonight, it’s a different outcome.”

Cornell opened the scoring during the fifth minute and off a faceoff. Brian Ferland checked aside Dartmouth’s Brandon Kirk in the corner and tapped the puck towards the net. The Big Green’s Charlie Mosey was on the verge of corralling the loose rubber near the side of the cage, but Cornell’s Dustin Mowrey swept it away, jammed a shot off goaltender James Kruger’s pads at the near post and flipped the rebound over the crouching netminder at the near post.

Dartmouth pulled into a 1-1 tie seven minutes into the second period, with sophomore plugger Connor Dempsey notching his first college goal. Geoff Ferguson dragged the puck around a sliding foe before firing a shot from the right point that was deflected in front by Tim O’Brien. Dempsey lunged to tap the rebound inside the far post.

“I went to the open space and it just squeaked to me for an empty-net goal,” said Dempsey, whose teammate, Brad Schierhorn, retrieved the puck for him. “It might have gone in on its own, but it was moving pretty slow and I didn’t want to risk letting it go.”

Dartmouth’s other hero was Kruger, a sophomore who stopped 23 shots in his first home start. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Minnesotan started the first game of the season before missing 10 games with a hand injury, but entered Saturday’s game with only 90 combined minutes of collegiate experience.

“It was an opportunity to get Kruger a game and it puts a little different focus on things for the team,” Gaudet said of his choice to give starter Charles Grant a rest. “They maybe have that little extra edge to support him and make sure he has a good game. Kruges is very calm and under control and he’s very big. Even when he’s down on his knees, there aren’t a lot of places to shoot on him.”

The contest finished on a sour note when Dartmouth’s Eric Neiley flattened Cornell’s Cole Bardreau in the neutral zone several seconds after the final horn. While Bardreau, who suffered a broken neck in a game last January, lay motionless on the ice, two of his teammates engaged in protracted fisticuffs with Neiley and Ferguson.

Neiley, Dartmouth’s leading scorer, was penalized for charging and also given a game misconduct, meaning he is ineligible for Friday’s conference game at Rensselaer. The hit and resulting fracas will also be reviewed by the league and Neiley could face further discipline.

Gaudet said his wing was himself injured by an opponent’s hit during a shift shortly before the confrontation and allowed his simmering anger to get the best of him.

“I can’t condone what he did, obviously, but I watched it on video and he didn’t hit (Bardreau) in the head or anything,” Gaudet said. “It was one of those plays where he still had the energy of the game” after the whistle.

Notes: Dartmouth and Cornell have played 128 times and gone to overtime on 19 occasions. The Big Green is 0-3-3 during the teams’ last six trips to an extra stanza. … Entering the weekend, no Dartmouth player was among the top 10 ECAC performers in winning faceoffs. … Big Green defenseman Rick Pinkston was a healthy scratch and sat for the first time in 41 games. Fellow rearguard Ryan Bullock was scratched for a second consecutive night after playing in 16 previous games this winter. … Dartmouth held a 33-24 shot advantage. … Cornell arrived having allowed just six first-period goals all season. The next best ECAC team in that regard had allowed 12… The Big Red’s roster includes players born in seven countries, including Belarus, Denmark, Finland, Singapore and South Africa. … A January tweet from O’Brien, who has battled a hip injury this season: “Just got steroid injections in my hips. The guy helping the doc was humming like he was in his happy place. It was an American horror story.”

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