Big Test for Big Green Hockey This Weekend
Jesse Beamish looks to the goal during Dartmouth College men’s hockey practice in Thompson Arena on Wednesday. The Big Green visits Boston College, the defending national champion, tomorrow. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Mark Goggin, left, tries to slow down teammate Andy Simpson as he rounds the back of the net during Dartmouth College men's hockey practice in advance of the Big Green's game against No. 1-ranked Boston College. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — So, Bob Gaudet, what happened on Nov. 26, 2002, within the confines of the Thompson Arena ice near which you sat when asked this question on Wednesday?
“Ten years ago?” the Dartmouth men’s hockey coach responded. “Hugh Jessiman to Mike Ouellette.”
Gaudet’s memory lives. Nearly a decade back to the day, freshman Jessiman connected with freshman Ouellette on the game-winning goal 2:39 into overtime of a 5-4 Dartmouth upset of then-No. 1 Boston College.
Gaudet remains one of the few constants 10 years later as his 11th-ranked Big Green skates into the Eagles’ Conte Forum aerie tomorrow afternoon. As it happened before, so shall it happen again: BC is top-ranked in the country (according to the weekly U.S. College Hockey online poll, at least) and holds the title of defending NCAA Division I champion. Again.
This matters only marginally to Gaudet’s squad, which hiccupped for the first time this season by securing just one of four points in last weekend’s trip to Colgate and Cornell. The memory of blowing a three-goal third period lead last Friday at Colgate — an eventual 5-4 loss — came at a good time, BC or no BC.
“It proves that they’re a good team, and they’ve proved that they are a good team,” Dartmouth junior wing Eric Robinson said of the Eagles’ ranking. “But we’re going to try to look at it the same way we try to look at the number in front of our team: It’s just a number right now. … We know we’re going to have a pretty good test in front of us.”
Some interesting numbers, then:
Start with 7, as in the number of NHL draftees on veteran coach Jerry York’s roster. That kind of skill befits a Boston College team (9-1-0) that plays a quick game, the type that the two-draftee Big Green has, for the most part, successfully emulated this year.
The lone exception came in the Colgate loss, when Dartmouth’s high-octane approach bogged down as the Raiders rallied from a 4-1 deficit. The Big Green (5-1-2) followed that with a credible 1-1 tie at then-No. 10 Cornell and actually moved up a spot in the national poll as a result. Still, if the Big Green doesn’t skate, it won’t pluck the Eagles.
“They play the game so fast, and that’s what we want to do,” Gaudet said. “It should be fun playing against that team, because they do it so well and so consistently.”
There’s 59, the place Dartmouth holds as the least-penalized team in NCAA Division I hockey, a big reason why the Big Green also possesses the No. 1 penalty-killing unit in the game. Dartmouth ranked 32nd in penalty minutes and a dismal 52nd in penalty-killing effectiveness in 2011-12.
Should the Big Green turn the penalty-box entrance into a revolving door, however, they’ll be defending against the nation’s No. 3 power play.
“They set the standard, really, and they have the past few years,” Dartmouth captain Mike Keenan said. “This will be a good test for us. But the ranking and stuff, it’s still November. It’s gonna matter more in March.”
On top of that is 11, the number sophomore forward Eric Neiley wears for the Big Green. Only he probably won’t this weekend, as Gaudet effectively ruled him out of tomorrow’s game with an injury sustained at Cornell.
As well as Neiley has played and as fine a partner he makes on the top line with junior Matt Lindblad and sophomore Tyler Sikura (team-high 12 points), Gaudet has options. He’s kept Robinson joined with sophomore wing Brandon McNally, but senior Dustin Walsh and freshman Brett Patterson have served as center without a diminishing of effort. Gaudet said Walsh may move up to pivot Lindblad and Sikura, leaving the possibility of sophomore Jesse Beamish moving into the second-line center vacancy.
Ten years ago, the principals of the BC game-winning goal were just getting started. Ouellette still skates professionally in Austria; Jessiman is back in the AHL; then-sophomore Lee Stempniak, whose pass to Jessiman started the winning play, remains with the NHL’s Calgary Flames, for whom he’ll presumably skate … one of these days.
For the past to be prologue, a different Dartmouth team in a different age will have to go to a different site and do the same thing it did on Nov. 22, 2002: Beat a very good team at its own game.
“I’ve played against most of these guys who either played at BC and have moved on or are playing right now,” said Keenan, like Robinson a Massachusetts native. “You play with these guys in the summer and, yeah, it’s a Boston school. So it’s definitely exciting to be able to play them.”
Girls’ Weekend In: While the men prep for BC, the Dartmouth women’s hockey team faces a big test of its own tonight with No. 2 Cornell (8-1-0) entering Thompson at 7 p.m.
Unranked, the Big Green (4-1-1) has gotten off to a superb start thanks to gutsy play in tight games. Of its four wins, three have come by a goal, the other by a pair. Dartmouth has been off since rallying from a 3-1 deficit for a 3-3 tie with … who else? … Boston College on Nov. 12.
Fifth-year senior Reagan Fischer leads Dartmouth with eight points (4-4) in six games; her two third-period strikes accounted for the rally against the No. 5 Eagles. Senior Camille Dumais and freshman Lindsey Allen are right behind Fischer with three goals apiece. Fisher is also just seven points from reaching 100 for her collegiate career.
Cornell brushed with Colgate last weekend, flossing the Raiders, 9-0 and 9-2, to extend their current win streak to seven. Colgate (3-9-1) pays Dartmouth a visit tomorrow at 4 p.m., a game that marks the return of Hanover native and sophomore Raider forward Miriam Drubel to the area. After this weekend, the Big Green won’t skate at Thompson again until Jan. 11, a stretch of eight games.
Ice Chips: ECAC Hockey begins sale of tickets to March’s tournament championship weekend at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., tomorrow afternoon, a clear sign that the resort landmark wasn’t as badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy last month as other parts of the city were. Ticket sales begin a weekend after the Hall played host to a World Boxing Council lightweight championship bout on a night that resulted in a donation of more than $44,000 for the city’s Boys & Girls Club to use to help repair its Sandy-battered facilities. The ECAC Hockey championship will return to Lake Placid, N.Y., in 2014. … Dartmouth women’s hockey will lose the services of freshman Laura Stacey for the first ECAC weekend of the new year, but for a good reason: The 18-year-old was chosen this week for the Canadian junior national team for the Jan. 2-6 Meco Cup in Germany. The event pits Canada’s under-22 squad against the senior national teams from Germany, Finland, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland in a five-day tourney. Stacey — the great-granddaughter of Hockey Hall of Famer and former NHL player, coach, referee and executive King Clancy — leads Dartmouth with five assists through its first six games.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.