HANOVER, N.H. — If Dartmouth is planning to play a defensive style this season, the Big Green certainly showed it Friday night.
Playing in front 527 fans just hours before the annual Homecoming Bonfire on the college green, the Big Green permitted only 17 McGill shots as they beat the Redmen, 5-1, in exhibition action at Thompson Arena.
Dartmouth, which tallied 51 shots, sat six of its regulars but didn’t miss a beat, recording the game-winner at 6:41 of the second period when junior defenseman Trevor Byrne rushed in past the blueline and blasted a pass from Kent Gillings through the pipes.
“I came in from center ice,” said Byrne, who was an All-Ivy first teamer and All-ECAC second teamer last season. “I was actually dead tired when I got to the puck, so I didn’t look to make a pass. I just shot it in down low and it went in. I got lucky.”
The Big Green — playing with only three official practices under its belt –definitely treated the game like an exhibition, using a different goaltender each period and sitting senior forwards Mike Maturo, Jamie Herrington, Chris Baldwin, Chris Taliercio, Dan Casella and Frank Nardella.
Those six contributed 55 goals and 127 points last season, but were given the night off as the coaching staff evaluated the whole of its roster.
“We know what those guys can do,” head coach Bob Gaudet said before the game. “This is a chance for all the players to get out there and get their feet wet, especially the freshmen. And I think we’d be sorry later if we didn’t do it.”
Normally, Dartmouth plays only intrasquad scrimmages or informal games against Ivy opponents at this point in the preseason, but Gaudet felt that facing McGill was the best option because “there weren’t a lot of egos involved in this game like when we play against a team like Harvard.”
The brightest moment for the Big Green — other than the five goals and the 17 shots — allowed-was a five-minute penalty kill in the second period. Pete Summerfelt went to the box for a roughing major, but Dartmouth allowed only one soft shot in the span.
McGill finished the game 0-for-3 on the power play, while Dartmouth went 0-for-2.
Darren Gastrock (six saves) started the game in net for the Big Green, and the home team gave him some support midway through the opening period.
After McGill failed on repeated chances to clear the puck, Kent Gillings — a 29-point scorer last season — backhanded a shot past netminder Luc Vaillancourt (46 saves) for a 1-0 Dartmouth lead.
After Byrne made it 2-0 with his eventual game-winner, McGill’s Daniel Jacob blasted a shot from the blueline than goalie Nick Boucher (six saves) slowed but didn’t stop. The puck trickled between the pipes to make it 2-1, Dartmouth.
The Big Green responded exactly two minutes later, as Halsey Coughlin scored the first of his two goals with a quick shot off a faceoff.
In the third frame, Dartmouth added to its cushion, as Coughlin notched his second off a rebound just 20 seconds in and then Mike Wheelihan smoked a shot that deflected off the goalie’s stick at the 9:20 mark to make it 5-1.
Dan Yacey played a perfect third period in net for the Big Green, making four saves.
“I thought we played hard and we played with a lot of energy. We played physically when we needed to. It’s a start for us,” Gaudet said. “It gives us a good sense of where we are.”
Dartmouth will complete its exhibition schedule with a game against Moncton on Oct. 27.
Big Green Notes: With two goals, Halsey Coughlin was the first star of the game. Kent Gillings also had two points, recording a goal and an assist. … The Big Green allowed as few as 17 shots only once last season, coming in a 4-3 loss at Union on Feb. 3. The Dutchmen took only 16 shots that game. … McGill’s Doug Orr, the nephew of NHL great Bobby Orr, was a regular in the sin bin. The undisciplined Orr finished the game with 12 penalty minutes, including eight in the third period. … Head coach Bob Gaudet is planning to go with a more traditional lineup against Moncton. The six regulars that sat against McGill are slated to play, and junior goaltender Nick Boucher — the returning starter — will likely log at least two periods of action. … The Big Green will kick off its regular season on Nov. 4 with an ECAC game at Harvard.