Saints Force Deciding Game

  • Dartmouth College and St. Lawrence players exchange pleasantries on Saturday in front of the home bench at Thompson Arena in Hanover.

  • Dartmouth College defenseman River Rymsha, back to the glass, celebrates his goal against St. Lawrence on Saturday with teammates Shane Sellar and Will Graber. The Big Green lost the second game of its first round, best-of-three series with visiting St. Lawrence, 4-2, and the ECAC teams play the deciding contest today at 5 p.m. at Thompson Arena. (Valley News — Tris Wykes)

  • Dartmouth College forward Shane Sellar pressures St. Lawrence’s Jake Stevens during the teams’ Saturday playoff game at Thompson Arena.

  • Dartmouth College captain Kevan Kilistoff listens to an explanation from referee Cam Lynch during Saturday’s 4-2 loss to visiting St. Lawrence. The visiting Saints forced a third and deciding game in the teams’ ECAC first round playoff series, to be contested today at 5 p.m. (Valley News — Tris Wykes)

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, March 03, 2018

Hanover — A poster advertising the upcoming ECAC hockey championships at Lake Placid, N.Y., hangs on the door of Dartmouth College equipment manager Nick Bayruns in a downstairs hallway at Thompson Arena.

The Big Green has reached that event, comprising the 12-team conference tournament’s surviving four teams, twice during the past 10 seasons. It will have to win tonight’s deciding game of a first round, best-of-three series against visiting St. Lawrence to have any shot at doing it again this winter.

That situation was set up on Saturday, when the last-place Saints, winners of only three ECAC contests all season, posted a 4-2 victory before a mostly-disgruntled gathering announced at 1,532. A Dartmouth victory would have pushed the No. 4 Big Green through to another best-of-three series, this time a quarterfinal matchup at No. 4 Harvard.

Now? It’s desperation time just to keep the season alive.

“That’s a team with 18 full scholarships and big, physical guys who are finally healthy,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said of the 8-26-2 Saints. “They earned the ‘W’ tonight, but it came down to a late power play, and getting that call is basically a break you get.”

St. Lawrence coach Mark Morris said his team was irritated in the seconds after Friday’s Game 1 loss, when Dartmouth’s Will Graber fired a puck into the visitors’ unattended net. Graber downplayed his intent, but the Saints took it as a rubbing-it-in gesture of disrespect.

“I think it woke our guys up,” Morris said. “We told them to pick up where that left off and now, hopefully with the momentum, we can keep it going.”

Believers in karma might note that it was Graber who was whistled for the third-period interference penalty that handed St. Lawrence a power play with 10 minutes remaining. Just 13 seconds later, Ryan Lough ripped a shot from the right circle and off the ankle of Dartmouth defenseman Brendan Less, who collapsed in a heap in front of goaltender Devin Buffalo.

The puck bounced back to the charging Lough, who scored. Gaudet shook his head while contemplating the sequence.

“A courageous play and it ends up back on the kid’s stick,” the coach said. “That’s really giving it up for your team. It didn’t work out our way, but hopefully playing like that benefits us tomorrow.

“I’m a big believer in that the harder you work, the luckier you get. So we’re going to come out tomorrow and work really hard and hope we can get a break, that we can get a call.”

Dartmouth (14-15-2) opened the scoring in the third minute when a Connor Yau shot from the center point hit teammate Cam Strong, who had just been thrown to the ice in the slot. The puck bounced off a prone Strong and to the left of the net, from where Ryan Blankenmeier tallied.

St. Lawrence tied the game, 1-1, six minutes before the first intermission when a shot from high on the right side was deflected past Buffalo. The visitors went up, 2-1, six minutes before the second intermission when Mike Marnell received a pass in center ice, split two defenders and broke in alone.

Dartmouth forged a 2-2 tie with 31 seconds remaining in the second period after a Graber crossing feed struck Shane Sellar on the other side of the slot and landed flat. Skating on to it, defenseman River Rymsha scored his first goal since the 2015-16 season. St. Lawrence scored the last two goals, the last into an empty net by 6-foot-8 Keenan Suthers, who has to duck to get through the visitors locker room door while wearing skates.

“He’s a project,” Morris said of the freshman who once played for the U.S. National Team Development Program and whose parents played basketball. “It’s a bit of a gamble when you get a guy that size, but when he gets his man strength, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Tonight’s game has a 5 p.m. start time, and Morris hopes Suthers and his teammates are fired up once again.

“There’s a lot of bad blood out there, and I’m glad our guys were able to bare their fangs and show their claws,” the coach said. “We’re sick and tired of losing.”

Notes: Dartmouth is 7-3 in deciding games of best-of-three series. The last such contest was two years ago against Colgate in the first round, when Tim O’Brien’s goal ended the fifth-longest game in program history in double overtime. The Big Green advanced to the quarterfinals and kicked off No. 7 Yale to reach Lake Placid. … Less, who was helped off the ice after being hit by Lough’s shot and did not return, is questionable for tonight’s game. … Only about half of Dartmouth’s players remained on the ice for the traditional raised-stick tribute to the fans. The rest left the ice and directly down the tunnel at the final horn. … The arena scoreboard was lowered to several feet off the ice after the game so workers could tend to its guts. About half a dozen pucks were taken out of it as well. The now fully-electronic scoreboard used to descend after every game during the arena’s early days, when tabs with the name of the visiting team had to be replaced with the upcoming opponent. ... “Deep Purple,” the top seed in the playoffs for the local Campion Rink adult hockey league, features Bayruns (a St. Lawrence graduate) and hockey team sports information man Pat Salvas. However, neither will be available for tonight’s 5:30 p.m. game because they’ll be working a contest with slightly larger implications.… Former Dartmouth assistant Brendan Whittet, the head man at Brown since 2009, saw his Bears get routed twice and swept out of the first round by Princeton. Brown is 84-158-49 under Whittet.

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