February 21, 2014

ECAC Journal: Big Green making big push

By Dan Guttenplan

Brandon McNally (Saugus, Mass.) had three points for Dartmouth last weekend, helping the Big Green earn wins over St. Lawrence and Clarkson. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

It seems like it happens every year in ECAC Hockey.

A team in the bottom third of the standings gets hot after Valentine’s Day, and the teams in the top third are forced to take notice.

This year, it looks like Dartmouth will be the team nobody wants to see in the ECAC Hockey tournament. Plagued by injuries all season, the Big Green started 3-15-3 overall, a disappointing stretch to say the least for a team that started 5-0-1 in 2012-13.

Dartmouth finished fifth in the ECAC Hockey regular season last winter, falling just short of a first-round bye in the tournament after earning only one point on the final weekend of the regular season.

The Big Green had been playing most of the season without two of its top returning players in Tyler Sikura and Eric Robinson, both of whom suffered injuries at the start of the season that required lengthy recoveries. Sikura was back on the ice for the first time last weekend for the first time since Dec. 30 – Robinson will miss the remainder of the year – and Dartmouth was the lone ECAC Hockey team to record a four-point weekend, beating St. Lawrence and Clarkson by a combined score of 9-2.

The Green and White broke out with four goals in the final 10-plus minutes of the first period against Clarkson at Cheel Arena last weekend. That figure is the most in the opening frame this season for Dartmouth.

Sophomore goaltender Charles Grant is finally starting to look dominant in net. He stopped 63 shots and only allowed two goals last weekend (both power-play goals). Against the Saints, he had 32 saves, including numerous spectacular stops to keep the home team at bay. The following night he finished with 31 saves at Clarkson as the Golden Knights peppered the Dartmouth netminder for stretches throughout the game. His play was the difference in Dartmouth's first weekend road sweep in two years.

The good news for Dartmouth: The team is getting hot just in time to set itself up for a postseason run. With two weekends to play in the regular season, the Big Green are within four points of eighth place, which would earn them home ice in the first round of the tournament. Brown made a similar run to the championship game last season. Fittingly, Brown is in that ever-valuable eighth spot, and the teams will meet Friday night at 7:05 p.m. in Hanover, N.H.

Player of the Week

Andrew Ammon, Princeton University
Senior, Forward

Ammon led the nation in scoring last week with eight. He had a hand in every Princeton goal as the Tigers defeated Brown 3-2 and lost 7-5 to Yale. Ammon scored two goals and assisted on six. He also led the NCAA in shots on goal with 18 in two games. The senior had a career night at Yale scoring two goals and assisting on three to extend his point streak to six games. Trailing 3-0, Ammon scored twice to make it a one-goal game. He assisted on three more goals as the teams battled to the very end. On Friday at Brown, Ammon assisted on all three Princeton goals to help the Tigers snap a five-game losing skid.

Game of the Week

Colgate at Quinnipiac, Saturday (7 p.m.)

Colgate cancer survivor Spiro Goulakos has been on fire lately with nine points in his last six games from the blue line. The Raiders have enjoyed success in the second half of the season with a 7-2-3 record to get them in the top 20 in the country. They are 4-1-2 against top-20 teams in 2014.

Quinnipiac is 85-40-17 in 142 games at High Point Solutions at the TD Bank Sports Center. Senior Zach Tolkinen is enjoying a great senior year, leading all Quinnipiac defensemen in assists (15) and points (17). Michael Peca has totaled five goals and seven assists over his last eight games, almost doubling his scoring totals over his first 24.

Power Rankings 

1.      Union (20-6-4; 14-3-1): The Dutchmen stretched their lead in the ECAC Hockey standings to four points last weekend with a three-point weekend in a road set at Cornell and Colgate. They also reached the 20-win milestone for the fifth consecutive season.

2.      Quinnipiac (21-6-5; 11-4-3): The Bobcats played big in a statement game Friday, blanking Yale 4-0 behind 33 saves by sophomore goaltender Michael Garteig. They came out flat the next night in a 4-2 loss to Brown.

3.      Cornell (12-7-5; 8-6-4): The Big Red are in the midst of a late-season slump. They have lost three straight – a streak that started with their first loss since November. In those three games, they have been held to a total of three goals.

4.      Colgate (14-11-5; 10-5-3): The Raiders are looking like a dangerous team heading into the ECAC Hockey tournament. They clinched home ice in at least one round with a set of ties last weekend – one against Union and one against RPI. They are 7-2-3 since the start of 2014, and have allowed only seven power play goals in the last 50 opportunities.

5.      Yale (13-8-4; 8-7-3): The Elis scored three shorthanded goals in a victory over Princeton Feb. 14. They needed the momentum boost after falling to Quinnipiac 4-0 on Valentine’s Day.

6.      RPI (13-12-5; 7-7-4): The Engineers had a great weekend with a road win over Cornell and a road tie at Colgate. Junior Ryan Haggerty (Stamford, Conn.) had the game-tying goal against Colgate and pushed his points streak to nine games with an assist at Cornell.

7.      Clarkson (17-13-2, 10-8-0): Somehow, the Golden Knights remain in a tie for fourth place in the ECAC Hockey standings despite failing to pick up a point in losses against Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend. The worst part of Clarkson: Both losses came at home at Cheel Arena.

8.      Harvard (9-12-4; 5-9-4): The Crimson will honor the 1989 national championship team before Friday’s game against Yale at Bright-Landry Hockey Center. The defending national-champion Bulldogs will certainly have an appreciation for what it took for the Crimson to make history 25 years ago.

9.      Brown (10-12-3; 7-10-1): After the Bears made a run to the ECAC Hockey tournament championship game last year, coach Brendan Whittet said his hope was for his program to become a consistent ECAC Hockey powerhouse. With a win over Quinnipiac last weekend, the Bears proved they can play with anyone. But a loss to Princeton showed the consistency is still a problem.

10.  St. Lawrence (11-15-4; 5-9-4): The Saints failed to carry the momentum last weekend generated from a sweep of Princeton and Quinnipiac over the previous weekend. They fell to Dartmouth 3-1 and earned a tie against Harvard 2-2.

11.  Dartmouth (6-16-3, 5-12-1): Finally, the Big Green are playing up to the expectations they set for themselves following a promising season last winter. They swept Clarkson and St. Lawrence last weekend, outscoring the ECAC foes by a combined score of 9-2.

12.  Princeton (5-20-0; 4-14-0): The bottom tier of ECAC Hockey seemed to move closer to the top, as Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton all recorded wins. The Tigers scored a total of eight goals in games against Yale and Brown.