January 10, 2014

ECAC Journal: Frustrating season on upswing for Dartmouth

By Dan Guttenplan

Senior Eric Robinson and Dartmouth suffered through a brutal first half, but some strong results in recent weeks have things looking up. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

Finding bright spots in the first half of the Dartmouth hockey season can be a difficult task, considering the team that was picked to finish fifth in the ECAC Hockey media preseason poll started 0-8-0.

However, there have been some bright spots of late. On Wednesday night, the Big Green beat Boston University for the first time since 2008, giving Dartmouth (3-11-2) four points in its last three games.

Baby steps.

“I’m not really sure how this happened, honestly,” Dartmouth’s leading scorer, Eric Neiley, said of the team’s start. “The first weekend, we lost both games (to Princeton and Brown) at the Liberty Invitational, but we played well. Then we had a terrible weekend against Union and RPI. We were outscored 14-3, and I think that really hurt our confidence.”

Dartmouth’s turnaround – if one can call a 1-0-2 record over its last three games a turnaround – can be traced back to a crazy Dec. 30 game against Northeastern. That game ended in an 8-8 tie, which would have been considered a huge positive for Dartmouth due to Northeastern’s top-20 ranking had it not been for the fact that the Big Green blew an 8-4 third-period lead. Still, they haven’t lost since.

“We had the weekend off for finals, and ever since that weekend, we’ve been playing well,” Neiley said. “If you look back at our last seven games, we would be 7-0 if we had just won the third period and 5-0-2 if we tied the third period. We don’t have the instinct we need to win. I’m not sure why that is.”

If nothing else, the Big Green will remember the season for the game against Northeastern in which – somehow – two Division I teams combined for 16 goals.

“I hadn’t been involved in anything like that since youth hockey,” said Neiley, who had two goals and an assist in the game. “It was fun. We were down 4-2, so it was fun to take it to an 8-4 lead. We couldn’t hold on, but that type of game doesn’t happen in college hockey.”

Player of the Week

Mark Naclerio (Milford, Conn.), so. F, Brown

Naclerio registered four points, including a team-high three goals, to lead Brown to a 1-0-1 showing over the weekend. The sophomore notched a pair of third-period goals in Friday’s tie at No. 16 Denver. On Saturday, he added a goal and an assist to help the Bears to a 4-2 victory over Colorado College. Naclerio leads the Bears with 18 points and eight goals this season.

Game of the Week

Harvard vs. Yale

Saturday, 8 p.m. (Madison Square Garden)

Harvard faces off against archrival Yale in the first ever Rivalry on Ice Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The game will be broadcast nationally on the NBC Sports Network. The teams tied 2-2 in the previous meeting this season on Dec. 13.

ECAC Rankings

1. Union (12-3-3; 8-1-0): Freshman forward Eli Lichtenwald was named the Hockey Commissioners’ Association National Division 1 Rookie of the Month for December after leading all freshmen in points (7) and tying for most goals (4), while guiding the Dutchmen to a 5-0-1 record.

2. Quinnipiac (15-3-5; 6-2-3): The Bobcats are 2-1-3 in their last six games after starting 13-2-2. Coach Rand Pecknold had the following to say after Tuesday’s 2-2 tie at Harvard: “We’ve got to start doing little things better. Early in the season, we did a lot of little things well. Now we’re kind of drifting.”

3. Yale (7-3-4; 3-2-3): The Bulldogs are the least penalized team in Division I, with 7.4 minutes on average. They are also 5-0-1 with a lead after one period and 6-0-2 with a two-period advantage.

4. Colgate (8-9-3; 5-3-1): Raiders freshman Charlie Finn was named the Most Valuable Player at the Mariucci Classic after leading the Raiders to the surprising title. He made 55 saves on 57 shots and earned his first collegiate shutout with 19 saves in a 3-0 win over No. 2 Ferris State. He posted 36 stops against No. 1 Minnesota in a 2-2 tie and made one stop in the shootout to get the Raiders to the title game.

5. Cornell (8-4-3; 4-3-2): Not sure if the Big Red got what they wanted from a competition standpoint Friday night in an exhibition against the Russian Red Stars. Cornell won 6-0 and faced only 19 shots.

6. Clarkson (12-6-2, 6-2-0): The holiday break has not served Clarkson well. The Golden Knights are 0-3-1 – all against Hockey East opponents – since returning to the ice Dec. 28. They host another Hockey East foe, Merrimack, this weekend for a home set.

7. Brown (6-6-2; 3-4-1): Sophomore forward Mark Naclerio (Milford, Conn.) was named ECAC Player of the Week after recording four points, including a team-high three goals, in Brown’s impressive weekend in Colorado. Naclerio notched a pair of third-period goals in Friday’s draw at No. 16 Denver, and added a goal and an assist Saturday to help the Bears to a 4-2 victory over Colorado College.

8. RPI (8-8-4; 3-3-3): The Engineers proved to be the one team that didn’t belong at the Mariucci Classic last weekend. They lost 6-2 on consecutive nights to Ferris State and Minnesota.

9. Harvard (5-7-3; 3-6-3): Entering Tuesday night’s tie against Quinnipiac, 24 of Harvard’s last 27 goals had been scored by either freshmen or sophomores. Underclassmen were responsible for 74 of Harvard’s 92 total points through 14 games this season.

10. St. Lawrence (8-10-2; 2-4-2): The Saints have lost five in a row, and they are allowing an average of 4.2 goals per game during that stretch.

11. Dartmouth (3-11-2, 2-8-0): As disappointing the 2013 portion of the 2013-14 season was for the Big Green, they can say they played in the craziest game of the season thus far – an 8-8 tie against Northeastern Dec. 30.

12. Princeton (3-14-0; 2-8-0): The Tigers will take a six-game losing streak into Friday night’s game against RPI – only the third time they’ve taken the ice for an official game since Dec. 7.

Twitter: @Dan_Guttenplan

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