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Second straight OT loss ends Dartmouth’s hockey season

  • Dartmouth College goaltender Adrian Clark watches a rebound bounce on the edge of his crease Saturday during the Big Green's ECAC first-round playoff game against Princeton at Thompson Arena. Defenseman Joey Matthews and the Tigers' Christian O'Neill are at left. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

  • Dartmouth College men's hockey coaches and players watch Princeton celebrate Saturday after the Tigers' 5-4, overtime victory at Thompson Arena. The result ended the Big Green's season in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

  • Princeton University men's hockey players celebrate their 5-4, overtime victory against Dartmouth on Saturday at Thompson Arena. The Tigers ended the Big Green's season by sweeping the first-round, best-of-three ECAC playoff series. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/7/2020 11:16:06 PM
Modified: 3/7/2020 11:16:02 PM

HANOVER — Thompson Arena’s public-address system blared Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 hit The Sounds of Silence as Princeton University’s starting lineup was introduced before Saturday’s ECAC men’s hockey playoff game with Dartmouth.

It was the sixth-seeded Big Green, however, that wound up in quiet anguish after the first-round contest. The 11th-seeded Tigers’ 5-4 overtime victory in the best-of-three series gave them a two-game sweep and advanced them to next weekend’s quarterfinals.

The deciding tally came with 9 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in overtime, when defenseman Mark Paolini ripped a shot from the right circle, off the junction of the near post and crossbar and past Big Green goaltender Adrian Clark. The Tigers were on a power play created when Dartmouth scoring star Drew O’Connor was whistled for tripping during a scramble in the offensive zone.

“It’s a cruel game,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet, whose team became the ECAC’s first No. 6 seed to lose a first-round series since 2011. “We came storming back. I think if we’d had 20 more seconds in regulation, we might have won it there.”

The home team was displeased with the overtime call on O’Connor, who was penalized for dropping Finn Evans. The Princeton sophomore writhed on the ice while clutching his midsection for several seconds and skated towards his bench seemingly bent over in pain. By the time Finn reached it, however, he was standing upright and jauntily twirling his stick.

“When a guy goes down and lays down as if he’s shot, from a trip …” Gaudet said. “I don’t think he got hit with a two-hander, but I didn’t see the penalty, which was called from back in center ice. We gave them an opportunity on the power play, and that was the only way they were going to win.”

Dartmouth trailed, 4-1, with 12 minutes to play in the third period but took 25 shots and scored three times in the stanza. The last came with Clark pulled for an extra attacker and Doug Graber cleanly winning a faceoff to the left of Princeton goaltender Jeremie Forget.

The puck moved to O’Connor atop the right circle. The sophomore zipped a pass across the high slot to Tanner Polocsik, whose one-time slap shot from the left circle was stopped by Forget. The rebound however, was knocked back at him by Baker, who fought off a Tigers defender to do so. The puck hit the inside of Forget’s left leg and slowly, ever so slowly, trickled across the goal line with 2.3 seconds remaining.

Princeton opened the scoring during the 12th minute when defenseman Matthew Thom cranked a slap shot from center point that teammate Spencer Kersten tipped in off the left post.

The Tigers doubled their lead three minutes before the first intermission, Luke Keenan sliding a pass out from behind the Dartmouth net and into the top of the left circle. Onrushing defenseman Mike Ufberg, balanced on his front foot, fired a one-time shot over Clark’s glove and under the crossbar at the far post.

Princeton began the second period on a full power play created by an O’Connor tripping penalty at the previous stanza’s end. The Tigers capitalized 1:32 into the man advantage with tic-tac-toe passing that gave Liam Gordon an easy tap into an unguarded net.

The Big Green rallied 23 seconds later, Mark Gallant curling across the top of the slot and unleashing a 40-foot shot that beat Forget.

The Tigers seemed to stick in the dagger with 16 minutes to play. Liam Grande glided into the right corner and was below the goal line when he flipped the puck toward the crease. Dartmouth defender Harrison Markel and Princeton’s Jackson Cressy were locked together there, the puck bouncing in off one of their entangled frames and past Clark.

“They got an own goal, and they just made some plays,” Gaudet said of the Tigers. “They were playing loose and carefree. I was ready to pull the goalie with 10 minutes left in the game but, down the stretch, they had no answers for us.”

Dartmouth crept within 4-2 with eight minutes remaining, Matt Baker pulling back an offensive-zone faceoff to Markell, whose slap shot pinged home off the near-side post. Princeton’s Cressy went off for slashing seconds later, leading to a power-play tally by Palocsik. The freshman’s wrist shot from center point sailed over Forget’s glove and under the crossbar with seven minutes to go.

“In terms of who’s the better hockey team, I don’t think there’s any question it’s us,” said Gaudet, whose team held a 50-34 shot advantage and outshot its foes 34-13 during the third period and overtime. “But Princeton played hard, and they deserved it.”

Making Dartmouth’s elimination sting all the more was Princeton’s prior performance this season. The Tigers won just two of their 22 conference contests during the regular season, making their series triumph one of the ECAC’s biggest postseason surprises in recent memory. Dartmouth finished the season 13-14-4 while the Tigers are 6-20-5.

Research by College Hockey News reporter Josh Seguin indicates that since the ECAC tournament expanded from 10 to 12 teams in 2003, no team with fewer than 10 regular-season points had advanced in the playoffs. Brown, with 10 such points in 2009, was the closest to the Tigers’ eight this winter.

Notes: Gaudet said Graber played much of the season injured and was hurting badly enough on Saturday that he likely wouldn’t have played if the series had gone to three games. … About 40 minutes after the game, Cam Strong, one of Dartmouth’s nine seniors, walked up the ramp at stood at its end for roughly five minutes, gazing around the arena in full uniform. … Princeton dressed eight Americans on Saturday while Dartmouth had 18.… ECAC referee advisor Pierre Belanger watched the clash, taking copious notes in section 13. … Kimball Union boys hockey coach Tim Whitehead attended the game. … Dartmouth’s last home playoff series loss was to RPI in 2009, when it was also the ECAC’s sixth seed.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




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