Green Stumbles in Game 1
Union Takes Advantage of Dartmouth Penalty to Win
Dartmouth’s Brad Schierhorn, left, is checked to the ice by Union’s Matt Wilkins last night. Teammate Greg Coburn is at right. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)
Dartmouth’s Eric Neiley, left, moves away from Union’s Cole Ikkala last night. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)
Dartmouth's Nick Bligh, moves away from Union's Josh Jooris at Messa Rink. (Schenectady [N.Y.] Daily Gazette - Peter R. Barber)
Schenectady, n.y. — And the Academy Award for best actor in a feature goes to … Union College junior Daniel Carr.
The second-line wing took a star turn in last night’s ECAC Hockey quarterfinal opener with Dartmouth at Messa Rink. Carr started by scoring two goals as the fourth-seeded Dutchmen topped the fifth-ranked Big Green, 4-1, to take the opening game of the best-of-three series.
But Carr saved his closeup for the midway point of the third period. Taking a crushing hit from Dartmouth’s Tyler Sikura with 8:36 left in the game, Carr stayed down on the ice long enough for the sophomore forward — owner of the Big Green’s lone goal — to draw a major and game misconduct for contact to the head. Popping right back up, Carr skated on the ensuing five-minute power play that effectively ended the night for Dartmouth (15-13-5).
“We came out slow tonight,” Dartmouth wing Eric Neiley admitted. “It’s the first period of a road playoff series, so it’s kind of to be expected. We weathered the storm pretty well, and I think we came out hard after that.”
Unfortunately, all that did was put the Big Green in the same boat as this time last week: needing one win to save its season, two to advance. Charles Grant stopped 37 shots for the Big Green, pierced only by Carr and sophomore Daniel Ciampini. Union blueliner Mat Bodie hit the empty net from 180 feet with 1:31 to play to clinch the victory.
“Those guys really came out with a sense of urgency tonight,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “It looked like a team that had a bye and was just dying to play some hockey. They’re sick of practicing against each other. That was huge for us tonight.”
The Dutchmen came out flying in the opening stanza, dominating the shot chart and possession time and coming away with a 1-0 lead that could have been, with luck, much larger.
With heavy traffic affecting Grant’s crease, Carr scored first at 9:46, redirecting a Sebastien Gingras right-wing feed over Grant’s shoulder at the near post. Fellow defenseman Shane Gotisbehere had to hustle to the other end moments later, getting a piece of the Big Green’s Connor Dempsey as the freshman tried to deke Union netminder Troy Grosenick (31 saves) on a breakaway.
Two other Union chances went begging minutes later. Referee Bob Ritchie emphatically washed out an apparent Kyle Bodie goal at 14:30, ruling a high stick. Carr and Matt Wilkins nearly capitalized seconds later, rushing two-on-one against Dartmouth’s Rick Pinkston, Wilkins’ one-time bid from the right circle hitting the pipe.
The period ended with the series’ subtext — Union’s excellent power play (ranked third in the nation) against Dartmouth’s excellent penalty killers (ranked fifth) — getting its first exercise. Despite a 15-7 edge in first-period shots, all the Dutchmen could muster was one bid before the intermission buzzer sounded and two others upon the resumption of play.
“It was getting back to basics, chipping pucks, good support on the breakout and making sure we got the puck over the blue line,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “Both teams, I thought, had some good momentum at times during game. It’s just a hard-working game.”
Still, Dartmouth left the second period down a goal.
Neiley had the first best chance, breaking in shorthanded to Grosenick’s right as Eric Robinson sat out an interference minor. Taking the tough way around, Mat Bodie whipped his stick from behind Neiley’s left leg and swatted the puck away before Neiley could test the Union goalie.
Dartmouth finally struck at 15:12 with some hustle from Dustin Walsh and Sikura. After Grosenick denied Lindblad from the right circle, Walsh secured the rebound and fed Sikura, whose jam shot barely crossed the line — confirmed by video review — before Grosenick could cover the puck.
But the lead lasted less that three minutes. Wayne Simpson won a battle in the right-wing corner of the Dartmouth end to set up Ciampini’s wrister from the right hash at 17:59, beating Grant’s glove low.
“It started off with a great cycle,” Ciampini said. “We hemmed them in there. (Simpson) beat the guy out of there with the puck and tried to make a pass. It hit a skate, and I was just lucky to be in the right spot at the right time.”
Carr netted his second of the night at 9:14 of the third, solving Grant from the high slot through heavy traffic. Gaudet argued with Ritchie and referee Scott Whittemore that Union had a body in Grant’s crease, going so far as to use his timeout for a video review. The goal stood.
So did Carr moments after Sikura’s explosive hit as the Union forward went up against two Dartmouth defenders on a shorthanded sortie. The check merited at least a minor, but Ritchie and Whittemore took the more punitive route.
“I feel fine,” Carr said. “Hockey’s a fast-paced game; stuff like that happens. I don’t think it was anything personal, just part of the game.”
The hit is subject to supplemental disciplinary review by the ECAC, possibly leading to a suspension for tonight’s second game. Gaudet didn’t think it would go that far: “To me, it looks like a boarding call.”
So, seven days later, Dartmouth is back to where it started. Last weekend, the Big Green dropped the opener of its best-of-three series to Harvard, 2-1, then roared back for 4-1 and 6-3 wins. The Crimson, however, wasn’t nationally ranked nor still loaded with talent left over from a run to the NCAA Frozen Four last year.
Neiley understands the role the Big Green must play from now on.
“We just know how to face the adversity of one game from our season being over,” Neiley said. “I know myself, Coach G, none of us on the team want to stop playing right now.
“It’s desperate. We’ve got to play desperate, and we played well against Harvard when we played that way.”
Ice Chips: Linblad’s first-period boarding minor was his first penalty of the year. … Dartmouth’s PK units shut down the Dutchmen on four man-up chances. The Big Green was 0-for-3 on its own power plays. … Union has NHL connections all over the place. Freshman defenseman Tim Boyle is the younger brother of lanky New York Rangers wing Brian Boyle, and senior defenseman Greg Coburn counts Philadelphia blueliner Brayden Coburn as an elder sibling. … Gingras’ father, Gaston, spent 12 seasons in the NHL, but his first claim to fame came in the long-dead WHA. Gingras was one of six underage juniors employed by the Birmingham Bulls in 1978-79, their final season of existence. Known as the “Baby Bulls,” all six — Gingras, Rob Ramage, Rick Vaive, Michel Goulet, Craig Hartsburg and Pat Riggin — went on to solid NHL careers.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.