HANOVER, N.H. — The Brown Bears found out Friday night that unless you slow down and physically contain the dangerous Dartmouth Big Green, you could be in for a load of trouble.
After a scrappy, back-and-forth first period that ended in a 1-1 tie, the Big Green grabbed control in an exciting, open-ice middle frame that saw quick skating and plentiful shots. After the second, Dartmouth had a commanding 4-2 advantage and held on with smart play in the third to notch a 6-3 win in front of 3,009 at Thompson Arena.
Senior Mike Maturo’s love affair with Brown continued as the co-captain and first-line left winger notched his first career hat trick. He scored on a power play in the first period and then lit the lamp twice in the final three minutes of regulation, giving him 15 points in seven career games against the Bears.
“I get lucky a lot. That’s how I get my goals,” said a modest Maturo, who has four points in two games this season. “It’s all about the work of my linemates and the team as a whole, but I’ll certainly take what I get.”
Reeling after a disappointing performance at Harvard last Sunday in which they were outplayed after grabbing an early 2-0 lead, the Dartmouth men looked more like the team that expects to go far this year.
Interestingly, freshman Lee Stempniak got the veteran Big Green going in the second with his first career goal, an absolute bomb that exploded off his stick from 15 feet out. From there, Dartmouth men appeared to be the superior team, dictating a style of play that made life difficult for netminder Brian Eklund.
Senior Chris Taliercio put a “1″ in his game-winning goal column, sliding one in at 18:13 of the second when Eklund (20 saves) was distracted by abundant traffic in front of the net.
“I thought we played a very intense, very focused second period,” said head coach Bob Gaudet, who spent nine years behind the Brown bench. “Physically, I thought we did a good job, and we went to the net and scored some good goals.
“Taliercio’s goal was typical of the way we need to score. Go to the net, create some pressure and make something good happen.”
The Bears (1-1-0, 1-1-0) can hold their heads high after this loss. Coming off an embarrassing four-win season, Brown has now beaten then-11th-ranked Harvard and given well-respected Dartmouth a stiff challenge — all without the services of captain and key defenseman Josh Barker, who is sidelined with an injury.
Still, Brown skipper Roger Grillo was disappointed with his team’s generally sloppy play and believes that while the Bears are making strides, there is still much work to be done.
“I give our guys credit for hanging in there toward the end and making it a one-goal game,” said Grillo, who took over the helm at Brown when Gaudet left in 1997. “But overall, I think we’re much better than we showed tonight. I’m disappointed with the way things turned out.”
The teams traded goals late in a sluggish first period. The Bears took the initial lead when sophomore Adam Saunders beat Nick Boucher (26 saves) with a power-play goal off a rebound, but Dartmouth responded less than two minutes later with Maturo’s first goal.
Less than two minutes into the second stanza, Dartmouth was on the road to victory. Stempniak’s goal was a booming slapshot that was impossible to see from the time it left his stick until ruffled the net. The freshman got his goal after linemate Jason Costa forced a turnover in the neutral zone and flipped it to center Jamie Herrington, who dished it to Stempniak.
“Jason Costa made a great play along the boards to force the play,” the freshman said. “Jamie Herrington picked it up and made a nice pass to me, and I just stepped across the blue line to shoot. It felt great when it went in.”
A Pete Summerfelt goal followed Stempniak’s before the Bears got back on the scoresheet, making it 3-2 when junior Keith Kirley lit the lamp on the tail end of a 3-on-2 rush.
But Kirley’s goal didn’t seem to shift the momentum to the visiting bench, as Dartmouth regained its two-goal margin late in the period with Taliercio’s eventual game-winner.
Things got dicey for Dartmouth at the 15:10 mark of the final period, as insufficient defensive coverage in front of the net allowed sophomore Brent Robinson to score his first of the season and make it 4-3.
After that, however, it was the Mike Maturo show. “Metro” scored nine seconds into a power play at the 17:09 mark to increase the lead to 5-3. In the final minute, he stole the puck at center ice, skated in uncontested and pleased the crowd with an empty-netter to complete his hat trick.
“Michael just seems to get big ones for us. He’s that type of player,” Gaudet said. “He’s always around the net and always plays smart. He’s under control and quite an impact player for us.”
The Big Green hosts Harvard Saturday night while the Bears make the short trip up Interstate 89 to face Vermont.