January 27, 2005
Big Green Weathers the Storm

By Joe Gladziszewski

ECACHL Notebook

Dartmouth, led by Lee Stempniak, is 5-2-1 in its last eight.

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Things didn’t go as planned for Dartmouth’s team on their trip from Cornell to Colgate on Saturday. A huge winter snowstorm and the trip on a very hilly Route 20 through Central New York proved difficult. Twice during the ride, the team bus was stuck on steep hills and smoke from the engine and tires filled the cabin. The players and coaches evacuated the bus and stood outside on the side of the road in heavy snowfall, one of the delays had the players outside for nearly 45 minutes.

Dartmouth finally did arrive at Starr Rink around 8 p.m., an hour after the scheduled start. The puck finally dropped around 9 p.m. and Dartmouth handed the first-place Raiders their second loss of the year in ECACHL play. The late arrival wasn’t due to poor planning. The Big Green left Ithaca an hour earlier than usual in anticipation of bad weather.

The whole experience paints a fitting picture of what Dartmouth’s gone through this year. No matter how well you plan, and how you prepare, there are some things that are beyond your control. The end of the night, a road win against the first place team, showed why Dartmouth is particularly dangerous down the stretch. The Big Green has shown an incredible ability to bounce back from unfortunate circumstances this season.

Early on, injuries proved to be the hurdle for the Big Green. Hugh Jessiman was lost for the majority of the season. Grant Lewis and Tanner Glass missed significant time. Dartmouth’s last game before Christmas was a 5-1 loss to Vermont, and dropped Dartmouth’s record to 4-6-1. It wasn’t what was expected from the team that was expected to challenge for the ECACHL title.

The holidays were a turning point for Dartmouth. The Big Green exacted revenge over Vermont in the championship of the Ledyard National Bank Classic, and poured in nine goals against Rensselaer in early January.

Then, another setback came in the form of a 1-0 loss to Union. A rivalry game against New Hampshire four days later saw the Big Green trailing 7-3 halfway through the contest. But, as has become Dartmouth’s trademark in recent weeks, the Big Green fought back to win that one.

Most recently, a loss to Cornell and long bus ride in terrible weather would’ve given Dartmouth an easy excuse, but they went out and knocked off the league’s first place team.

“We’re learning how to play without individuals and we’re learning how to persevere,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “That’s what I really like about this team. They bounce back. To come out today and have a tough day, but to find a way to win on the road against the top team in our league is really good. It shows the character of our team.”

Dartmouth’s character has definitely been tested this year, as Gaudet so properly stated, not by real-life adversity, but hockey adversity. Everyone knows about the skill level that Dartmouth has in its lineup on a given night. There was plenty of evidence in that win over Colgate, with two perfectly-placed rockets off the stick of Eric Przepiorka fired just inside the post, and a Grant Lewis power-play wrister that beat Steve Silverthorn right under the crossbar. It even showed on a rebound goal, when freshman Nick Johnson showed poise to hold the puck for a second before burying it into an open net.

That combination of character and skill has seen Dartmouth take its record back over .500 heading into this weekend’s games against Union and RPI. The recent surge has Dartmouth just three points out of the coveted top four spots in the standings, and that’s where the Big Green hopes to finish, according to captain Lee Stempniak.

“I don’t really look at the standings, but I think we want to make sure that we’re in one of the top four spots to get a bye. I think that’s one of our goals. Obviously we wanted to finish first but getting that bye is huge going into that second round of the playoffs,” he said.

“I like our team and I’ve liked it all along,” Gaudet said. “We’ve played good hockey and controlled a lot of games and lost them. At some point, the guys just have to have faith that the work ethic is going to carry them and it evens out over the course of the season.”

Dartmouth has faced enough bad luck thus far that if Gaudet’s expectation of things balancing out comes true in the coming weeks, there are plenty of good bounces owed to the Big Green.


Front-Runners Again – Before losing to Dartmouth on Saturday, Colgate defeated then second place Vermont on Friday. In that game, Colgate’s lineup featured eight seniors. Nine seniors dressed against Dartmouth. The Raiders’ senior class knows what it takes to win a championship after doing so last year. But it’s also a group with unfinished business as they fell short of the NCAA Tournament one year ago.

“We definitely have to use everything to our advantage and this year we have a lot of senior guys with great experience,” winger Jon Smyth said. He’s one of three juniors that dresses on a nightly basis. “That’s something we have to bring every night and realize that we’ve got guys in there who know what it takes to win.”

Physical strength comes from four years in the weight room. Knowledge comes from understanding game plans and systems. Experience comes from having been to difficult road arenas and being accustomed to the nuances of road trips. The most valuable asset that comes with so many games under their belts is poise and composure.

“We’ve been here before, we’ve been in the playoffs and played in tough games. We're definitely a more relaxed team,” senior defenseman Joey Mormina said.

That experience gained during last year’s outstanding season might have been the difference in Colgate’s win over Vermont, which was mired at the bottom of the standings a year ago. It should continue to pay dividends for Colgate with home games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson this weekend, and a huge home-and-home series with Cornell next weekend.

“They’re a veteran team,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “They’re playing eight or nine seniors that have won and had a great year last year. Knowing how to win is important.”

Capitalizing on Opportunities – Cornell's power play is responsible for more than 40 percent of its offensive output this season. Junior forward Matt Moulson leads the Big Red with 10 power-play goals, so it no surprise to hear his take on the officials' increased attention to obstruction and interference.

"I like the new officiating. So far it's gone well and it's just a matter of adjusting to it. I think the refs are doing a good job," he said. "Our power play has been clicking this year and it's a big part of our game to capitalize on power play chances."

Great Weekend Getaway
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Clarkson at Cornell (Fri.)
The standings say that it’s the second-place team and the second-to-last place team, but it’s more than that this time around at Lynah Rink. Clarkson returns to the site of last season’s playoff series upset of the Big Red and needs to get some points in the league if they want to host the first round of the playoffs this year. Cornell can exact some revenge and maintain hot pursuit of first-place Colgate, who leads Cornell by one point heading into the weekend. CSTV will broadcast the game at 8 p.m.

While You’re There: The best place for pizza near campus is The Nines in Collegetown. Great food and a great beer selection make it an excellent stop before or after the game.

Stick Salute

For most programs, earning a sixth win of the season isn’t cause for celebration. Princeton’s 4-2 win over Bentley on Tuesday at Baker Rink improved the Tigers' record to 6-12-1 on the year. Princeton’s sixth win surpasses last year’s total of five, and doubles the 2002-03 total of three.

Bench Minor

Quite a bizarre double standard for one scout in the Starr Rink press box on Friday night. During the last 15-20 seconds of the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” this scout commented in full voice about how he thought it was disrespectful of some of the players to be shuffling their skates during the anthem. I really don’t have a problem with the players doing that. At least they shut their mouths and remove their helmets. This guy was also wearing a hat.


Vermont’s departure to Hockey East next year means the end of the Dartmouth-Vermont travel pairing in the ECACHL, and it will also bring an end to the alternate hosting responsibilities of the holiday tournament, which has bounced between Hanover and Burlington for the past several years. Beginning next season, Vermont will host a Christmas-time tournament every year. Dartmouth will be among the invited teams in 2005. The Big Green plans to keep hosting a tournament in even years, and pursue out-of-town tournaments in odd years.

• There’s plenty of local television coverage of this week’s games, in addition to CSTV’s national coverage of Friday’s Clarkson-Cornell game at Lynah. In Central New York, Time-Warner Sports channel 26 will have live coverage of St.Lawrence at Colgate on Friday and Clarkson at Colgate on Saturday. In New England, Comcast/CN8 will broadcast Harvard at Yale on Saturday. Also, on Tuesday, Time Warner Sports in the Albany-area will carry the Harvard game at Union.

• A key road trip against league front-runners Colgate and Cornell was fruitless for Vermont, which lost both games.

"Our top players aren't performing to the best of their ability and we're having trouble putting the puck in the net," coach Kevin Sneddon said. "When that happens and you don't have the confidence that we had a couple of weeks ago, it makes for a long, kind of frustrating night."

The Catamounts have lost three in a row, but when faced with a similar streak earlier this season, they went 11 games without a loss. They'll host Rensselaer and Union this weekend and try to start a new streak.

RPI won both games on the North Country road trip for the first time since 1985. Senior forward Vic Pereira had two goals and two assists on the weekend to earn ECACHL Player of the Week honors.

Brown wrapped up its non-league portion of the schedule last week with a scoreless tie against UMass Lowell and a Mayor’s Cup victory over Providence. Brown was 5-1-1 in seven non-league games.

Union is 1-7-0 in league play after winning its first six conference games.

• 22 ECACHL players advanced to the second stage of Vote for Hobey. Fans can vote among the remaining 142 players every day until March 6.

• Six ECACHL teams appear in this week’s INCH Power Rankings, the most schools of any conference.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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