Four Points, Baby!
Tied for fifth place in the ECAC standings and only two points away from third is not a bad place to be if you’re Dartmouth. Shaking off losses to Yale and Harvard, in which the Big Green was outscored 9-2, Bob Gaudet’s squad turned in its most impressive weekend of the season by blanking RPI, 2-0, and then dismantling Union the next night with a five-goal effort.
It was the first four-point league weekend for the Big Green in almost a year; the last time they accomplished such a feat was in February, when they swept Cornell and Colgate. What’s more, the Big Green were the only team to gain four points last weekend.
“Our team played very well from the goal on out,” said Gaudet. “We needed a W, and it’s a big W for us to get because it’s back in league play. There has been a stretch of games where we have played very well with the exception of a little bit here and there. It’s nice to have the guys get rewarded.”
Once again, it was freshman goalie Nick Boucher who stood tall in net throughout the weekend, collecting 48 saves and allowing only one goal. The rookie’s stats continue to improve each and every week. With more than 640 minutes of collegiate hockey under his belt, Boucher has firmly established himself as the starting netminder and holds a .933 save percentage and a 2.05 goals-against average. Boucher has also received much-needed help from the players in front of him, especially on Friday night against the Engineers. The stingy Big Green defense held RPI to 20 shots in that game, including just six in the second and third periods.
“Boucher made some big saves when we needed him, and he was there for us,” Gaudet said. “We protected him really well and I think he has a way of making some saves look pretty easy. He didn’t cause himself a lot of trouble with rebounds and other things.”
While the defensive side of the ice was well served, the offense contributed its fair share — especially against the Dutchmen on Saturday night. The Engineers had their fate sealed by unlikely heroes in freshman Halsey Coughlin (his second-period tally was his first of the year) and junior Peter Mahler (3-0–3). But it was a pair of goals each by P.J. Martin (2-1–3) and Frank Nardella (5-4–9) which made the difference the following night. Nardella has picked up his point production this season and is tied with classmate Mike Maturo for the team lead with nine.
“They understand the work ethic involved in the game and as we keep preaching it, you can’t expect to go out and work hard and the result will automatically be there,” said Gaudet. “But if you don’t work hard you know what the result will be. The maturity of understanding the work ethic involved in playing the game has gotten there.
“I also like the attitude of the tam after a game,” Gaudet continued. “You couldn’t tell whether we won or lost [after the RPI game]. They understand that it’s a weekend and that it’s not just 60 minutes of hockey, it’s 120 minutes of hockey.”
This weekend, Dartmouth only has to put together 60 minutes of hockey as it faces only one team — its travel partner, Vermont, which is also coming off a solid weekend where it picked up three league points.
“The team is maturing and there was a stretch where it was brutal,” said Gaudet, referring to his team’s six-game winless streak heading into last weekend. “But it’s important for us to play those games against some really good teams. We got tested mentally and when we backed off or we fell asleep for a short stretch against Boston College, you learn you can’t relax or take time off during a game. [We learned that] everyone’s pretty good and everyone has weapons.”
Clawing Their Way Up
It’s not like they didn’t leave the door open or anything. Despite falling behind two straight nights, Vermont managed to pull out three points last weekend to gets its league record over the .500 mark.
Against Union, the Catamounts had to rely on two third-period tallies from Mike Torney and Kevin Karlander to claim the 3-2 win. The following night was much of same as RPI took a 2-0 lead through the first half of the game. A back-and-forth third period which included five goals – three by Vermont and two by the Engineers — resulted in a 4-4 deadlock. That one point was a gift for Vermont, which continues to struggle during the early stages of games.
“Two nights in a row we let a team get out on us,” said Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan. “We’re not staying close enough. Letting a team get two goals ahead is tough, but I thought that the team competed well all weekend long.
“Three points this weekend is not bad. Four would have been great, but a come-from-behind point against RPI is great.”
Considering his recent tear as of late, J.F. Caudron (10-12–22) was relatively quiet this past weekend, registering only one assist against RPI on Saturday night. As they normally do, Kevin Karlander (7-13–20) and Andreas Moborg (1-13–14) picked up the slack by tacking on two points apiece on the weekend. Karlander’s two goals against Union included a shorthanded game-winner.
“I thought that we played 60 better minutes against RPI than against Union, but maybe not as good of a 60 minutes as we played against Niagara,” said Gilligan referring to his team’s 4-3 overtime win against the Purple Eagles on December 4. Since that time, the Catamounts have gone winless, including dropping consecutive contests to Ohio State and Boston College at the UVM Hockey Classic.
“Both of the teams we played last weekend are tough teams to play when they are on the road, and we just had to get something out of it.”
Next In Line, Please
What many have speculated came into being last weekend in Potsdam as Clarkson added another goaltender to the roster. After getting through the NCAA clearinghouse on Friday afternoon, Karl Mattson joined the Golden Knight goaltending rotation.
Mattson was first brought to the Knights’ attention in mid-November and after a whirlwind of activity, the Gavle, Sweden, native decided to come to Clarkson. Previously he was playing for Hille, a farm team to Brynas in the Swedish elite league.
“By adding Karl to our roster, we have added depth and created a more competitive atmosphere in the net,” said head coach Mark Morris. “He is an excellent athlete and a hard worker. Karl is highly motivated and looks to be a solid goaltender at this level.”
Mattson was to join a gaggle of goalies, but when he came on, he joined a rotation that is now only three deep instead of five. The Knights started the season with four goaltenders on the roster: incumbent Shawn Grant, freshman Mike Walsh and sophomores Andy Kostka and Andrew Gibson. Only Grant and Walsh remain with Mattson.
“It was a very tough decision and always difficult to tell players they are no longer on the roster,” said Morris. “But we had planned all along to go with just three goaltenders.”
With the new goaltending situation, we are reminded of what head coach Mark Morris told us back in November.
“There is still no real threat for [Grant's] position, so the big challenge for him is to stay healthy and to push himself to improve. Seemingly Grant sensed the immediate pressure,” he stated.
Well, there is now a threat and, indeed, Grant came out strong against MSU-Mankato on Friday evening as the Knights won their first game of 2000, 5-2.
The next evening, Mattson got his first start and allowed two goals 1:20 apart in the first period, and the Mavericks went on to defeat Clarkson 5-1.
“Friday night we had a tremendous performance in net from Shawn Grant,” said Morris. “In my opinion he might have played his best game as a Golden Knight. He came up big in several situations and stood tall on breakaways. His performance was stellar and we got some goal-scoring that seem to cement the victory. We really played determined hockey.
“Saturday night was a different story. Without a doubt the better team was Minnesota State. They beat us to a lot of loose pucks and outmuscled us. They looked to be in better game condition. We were a bit hesitant and sluggish offensively. Their goaltender was outstanding.
“I felt as though Karl Mattson might have been a little shaky in his debut. He had been through a lot last week, traveling over from Sweden and trying to get settled in here at Clarkson. I suspect he will just continue to improve. He is still adjusting to the angles in the North American rinks. He looks to be a really promising prospect.”
Could Mattson provide the push that Morris has been looking for from his team? It could be as the Knights are in a quandary — sitting in last place in the ECAC with a 0-4-3 record — and now are poised to take the ECAC by storm as they have their final 15 contests against league teams.
“I think our future is in our own hands right now,” said Morris. “It is going to take a good run to put us in position for postseason play and to give us an opportunity to be among the elite teams in the league.
“This is all new territory for us, and our veteran players are going to have to pick up the slack. Our point production has been minimal and some of the mental mistakes we have made have been glaring. We are going to demand they up their intensity level and their commitment to getting on the winning track.”
How About Across Town?
Meanwhile, over in Canton, the St. Lawrence Saints also have 15 straight ECAC contests left to close out the regular season. Last weekend the Saints lost to and tied the number-four team in the country, Wisconsin, on the road.
The Saints lost 4-1 on Friday night and tied on Saturday, 6-6. Friday the Saints never led, but Saturday the Saints had a two-goal lead in the second period, but found themselves trailing by two goals in the third before a comeback tied the game.
“I thought we played pretty solid hockey for the better part of two periods,” said head coach Joe Marsh about Friday evening. “While you always want to go out to win, sometimes you can measure other things than wins or losses.
“It would have been nice to hold on for the win, but we’ll take the tie, particularly under the circumstances,” he added about Saturday’s game. “I think the guys will get a lot of positive things out of this weekend. We were able to score some goals and that’s something we really needed to do.”
The six goals tied a season high for the Saints, who sorely needed it, having only scored 12 goals in their previous eight games. It was no coincidence that the Saints were 1-6-1 in that stretch. While SLU is still not out of the woods, the ECAC season is back for the Saints, and this could be the turning point.
The Big Red of Cornell may be under .500, but they come off two impressive games after the holiday break. A 2-2 tie against Maine was followed up with an impressive performance over the Buckeyes of Ohio State this past weekend.
The Big Red started out the season 5-2-0 but then went into a 0-5-0 tailspin before the holidays. After the break, the Red seemed to be more relaxed and composed, and the results are there.
The 5-2 win over Ohio State saw the Big Red take a 2-1 lead in the second period, then break a 2-2 tie in the third period with three unanswered goals.
“People asked me today before the game what it would take for us to be successful, and I said that we needed to play a physical, strong game, and that’s what we did,” said Schafer. “I thought we were strong along the boards, and if we play that style of hockey, we’re going to be successful.
“We had some chances, but…I thought that [Aho] played a great game in the nets, I thought he made some great saves for them, and we didn’t capitalize on some chances. But that’s hockey. I’m really proud of the team that we just stuck with the game plan and didn’t get frustrated. That’s something as a coach that you look for from your team.”
The Big Red will hope to capitalize on their momentum with a weekend series against another CCHA foe, Western Michigan — the place where Schafer was an assistant before coming back to Cornell.
We Ask “Why?”
This past weekend, as the Rensselaer Engineers were preparing to play at Dartmouth, a freak snow/ice storm hit the Hanover, N.H., area around 4:00pm. The storm lasted a good two hours, dumping on the area around Hanover and White River Junction, VT.
On I-91 coming north towards White River Junction, one of those unexplainable things in life happened. 8-year-old Bobby Lanne lost his life going to see the team that he loved.
Bobby, his twin brother James and their uncle, Thomas McNeff, were driving in the freak storm on their way to Dartmouth to cheer their beloved Engineers. The SUV they were in lost control on a patch of black ice and crashed near Windsor, VT, just a few short miles from Hanover.
The Troy (N.Y.) Record reported that James was treated for minor injuries, while Thomas McNeff was taken to a New Hampshire head injury trauma center and was still in a coma at the time of this report.
Bobby loved RPI sports, regularly attended away games and was almost always there at home hockey and football games.
Our condolences go out to the Lanne and McNeff families.
Many thanks for the contributions of Paula C. Weston and Juan Martinez this week. All photographs used by permission of the appropriate Sports Information Departments. Any reproduction without authorization is prohibited.
USCHO covers the ECAC all week long on the ECAC Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.