ALBANY, N.Y. — Dartmouth would have rather won its 20th game of the season in Friday night’s semifinal against Harvard, but the Big Green had few complaints after defeating Brown, 4-2, in the ECAC consolation game at Pepsi Arena.
“I thought it was a great for a third-place game,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet, whose team finished 20-13-1. “There was a lot of up-and-down and a lot of energy on both sides. It was a great game and a great way to end our season.
“Twenty wins for our program was something that we really wanted to shoot for after we lost yesterday. It’s been a long time since a Dartmouth team did that.” Forty-five years, to be exact — all the way back to the 1947-1948 season.
“Twenty wins was definitely a goal of ours,” said Big Green senior captain Kent Gillings, who scored twice against the Bears. “It was very important for us seniors, because we were one of the classes that helped turn the program around. So to go out like this feels great.
“I’m definitely sad because this is the end of the run, but I’ve loved every year of it — especially this year, with all of our classes getting along so well.”
Nowhere was a sense of the team’s seniors helping its underclassmen more evident than in goal. After getting pulled in favor of sophomore Dan Yacey after giving up four goals on 16 shots Friday night, senior Nick Boucher — the school’s all-time leader in single-season wins (17) and career wins (50) — was asked by Gaudet before the game if he would sit out his final game so Yacey could have the chance to earn his first career win.
“I talked to Nick, and he was very excited about it — very excited,” said Gaudet, who held both of the Dartmouth win records before Boucher broke them this season. “Had he been adamant the other way, I may have made a different decision, but we wanted to give Dan a chance.
“Nick’s had a great career, and he’s not going to be remembered for the game yesterday. He’s got the record in wins at Dartmouth, record in games played — so many statistical areas. I appreciate what he’s done for this program, and I was going to do what he wanted.” And so the man Boucher wanted in net went out and won his first collegiate game.
“At times it’s tough to support the other guy,” said Yacey, who stopped 26 Brown shots and 37 of the 39 he faced this weekend. “Give credit to Nick. I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
A fluky goal was the first blemish on Yacey’s record. After being outshot 18-9 in the opening period, Brown took a 1-0 lead at 3:11 of the second when Pascal Denis bounced a sharp-angle shot off P.J. Martin’s skate and into the goal.
While the Bears held the lead for over nine minutes, it took the Big Green less than 30 seconds to take it away.
Dartmouth’s surge began with 7:31 to go in the second, when Mike Wheelihan worked along the right-wing boards and fed Gillings in front. Gillings, who had scored only one goal since a Jan. 25 win at Rensselaer, hesitated briefly before backhanding it top-shelf.
Twenty-two seconds later, freshman Eric Przepiorka — with his back to Brown goalie Yann Danis — found the rebound of a Chris Snizek shot and backhanded it five-hole.
The Big Green went up 3-1 on Gillings’ second of the day and 13th of the season, which came off a 2-on-1 with Wheelihan 3:24 into the third.
Brown countered a little over four minutes later, when sophomore wing Mike Meech scored his first of the season off a feed from Chris Legg. The Bears couldn’t make it any closer, though, and ECAC Rookie of the Year Hugh Jessiman scored an empty-netter with 44 seconds left to seal it.
“It wasn’t an easy game for us to get fired up for,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo, whose team still finished with its first winning record (16-14-5) since the 1994-1995 season, when Gaudet was still coaching the Bears. “But we came back in the third period and played pretty well. Once the bitterness fades away, we’ll feel pretty good about our season.”
“We showed people we’re capable of playing at the top level,” said Danis, who had 40 saves in the game and set a record with 340 career saves in ECAC tournament play.
Eli Alper contributed to this report.