November 16, 2012

ECAC Journal: Big Green this year's big surprise

By Dan Guttenplan

Sophomore Tyler Sikura leads the Big Green with 11 points through six games. (Photo courtesy of Mark Washburn)
 

Two weeks into the ECAC Hockey season, Dartmouth sits atop the league standings at 4-0-0 … with a victory over Union to its record.

Just like everybody expected.

The truth is Dartmouth's start may be the biggest surprise in Division 1 hockey to date. The Big Green finished 8-11-3 in the ECAC last season, earning the ninth seed out of 12 teams in the conference tournament.

Sure, there were signs of promise; Dartmouth's freshman class last season accounted for more goals than any other freshman class in the ECAC. But there were also plenty of reasons to keep the expectations for the Big Green in check – the biggest being that Dartmouth has never qualified for the NCAA Tournament in Bob Gaudet's 16 seasons as coach.

Dartmouth has proven itself to be a legitimate contender for the ECAC title in the opening month. The Big Green opened the season by taking home the Ivy Showcase championship. Last weekend, they swept RPI and Union at home, outscoring their opponents 7-2.

“I don't think a lot of people knew about us,” says Dartmouth's leading goal-scorer Eric Robinson, a junior wing from Foxboro, Mass. “We don't pay attention to the polls, but I don't think a lot of people knew we had so many great players returning. We have guys who flew under the radar before college, and even during their freshman seasons.”

Robinson, junior Matt Lindbland and sophomore Tyler Sikura (Saugus, Mass.) have formed one of the most productive forward lines in the nation, and there is not a senior in the group. Lindbland, Robinson and sophomore forward Brandon McNally each scored a goal in Dartmouth's 3-2 victory over Union Saturday.

“In Division 1 hockey, you have to put yourself in a fight every night, or you have no chance,” says Gaudet. “We've had a few big wins already, and we have a few measuring-stick games over the next few weeks. We try to take it one game at a time, but we're starting to make a name for ourselves in the conference and the nation.”

Of course, there's always a chance we'll look back and say Dartmouth's 4-0-0 start was an aberration. Perhaps the Big Green are taking advantage of the early season when a team like Union is trying to regain the intensity it demonstrated in making a run to the NCAA championship game last March. On the other hand, maybe Dartmouth is built to last. We should know much more about the Big Green after their next three games – at Cornell, at Colgate, and at Boston College.

Player of the Week

Andrew Calof, Princeton
Junior, Forward

Calof had two goals and three asssits as Princeton swept Cornell and Colgate. In a 5-3 win over Cornell Friday, Calof scored the game's ?rst goal and netted the game-winning goal at 17:07 of the third period. He added to his weekend totals with two assists in a 4-0 shutout of Colgate Saturday.

Game of the Week

Harvard at Cornell, Nov. 16 (7:30 p.m.) at Lynah Rink

The defending Ivy League champion Big Red (3-1-2 overall, 1-2-1 ECAC) will host the Crimson (3-2-0 overall, 2-2-0 ECAC) before a national television audience. The game will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network with Mike Emrick and Pierre McGuire on the call.

Power Rankings

1. Union (6-2-1, 3-1-0): I can forgive Union for falling to Dartmouth Saturday in what may have been an emotional letdown after posting a 6-2 victory over Harvard Friday in a rematch of last year's ECAC Championship. Plus, All-ECAC goalie Troy Grosenick missed the game with a leg injury.

2. Dartmouth (5-0-1, 4-0-0): Who would have thought the Big Green would be anxiously awaiting a Nov. 24 matchup at Boston College?

3. Harvard (3-2-0, 2-2-0): Backup goaltender Steve Michalek of Glastonberry, Conn., was reportedly considering joining the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL, but he is still listed on the Harvard roster at the moment.

4. Quinnipiac (5-3-1, 2-0-0): The Bobcats outshot Cornell 38-23 in a 4-1 victory Saturday night.

5. Cornell (3-2-1, 1-2-1): The Big Red are banged up, and other ECAC Hockey coaches are hoping to catch them before they heal.

6. Princeton (2-2-0, 2-0-0): The Tigers are in excellent condition at the start of the season. They combined to score five third-period goals in a series sweep of Cornell and Colgate last weekend.

7. Yale (3-2-1, 2-2-0): The Elis have continued their up-and-down trend from last season. This season, their games have finished in the following fashion: tie, win, loss, win, loss, win.

8. St. Lawrence (5-2-1, 0-1-1): After a promising start to the season, the Saints stumbled in league play, earning one point in a weekend set at Brown and Yale.

9. Clarkson (1-4-4, 1-0-1): Clarkson appears primed to threaten last year's Harvard team for the most ties in NCAA history. The squad finally earned its first win Friday at Yale.

10. Brown (1-3-2, 0-2-2): Every year, a rebuilding ECAC team frustrates conference foes by recording a lot of ties at home. The Bears seem primed to be that team after tying Clarkson and St. Lawrence last weekend.

11. Colgate (4-6-1, 0-3-1): The Raiders are winless in their last four, and they have Dartmouth and Harvard coming to town this weekend.

12. RPI (1-5-2, 0-4-0): The Engineers started 3-16-0 last season before turning it around and finishing the regular season with a 6-4-2 record in their last 12 games. They are not hoping for a repeat.

Dan Guttenplan can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @thx4playing.