CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — And then there were none.
The pipe dream of having an unbeaten team in college hockey went down in smoke Tuesday night as No. 11 Dartmouth, which entered the game 4-0-3, fell to No. 2 Boston College, 4-1, in a lackluster affair at BC’s Kelley Rink.
The Dartmouth offense, which had scored 15 goals in its previous two games while mustering 89 shots, was held to a single first period goal and only 14 shots by a stifling Eagles defense.
“Defensively they’re very strong,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet about the Eagles defense that has held opponents to less than 25 shots for 11 consecutive games. “They pursue the puck very well. We’d like to have had more pressure tonight but we couldn’t.
“I won’t disrespect [BC] by saying that we played badly either. They played excellent.”
A four-goal first period that left the score at 3-1 in favor of the Eagles accounted for all of the scoring save Ryan Murphy’s empty-netter with 59 seconds remaining. The scoreless second and nearly carbon copy third kept the BC announced crowd of 5,470 extra quiet, which didn’t surprise anyone from the Eagles.
What has become a tradition among college hockey teams in the Northeast, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving often produces good hockey, but not much in terms of student support, with most packing suitcases in preparation for the holiday weekend.
“[The players] have seen all these cars and busses leave in the last day or so,” said York about the mass exodus of students. “They’re aware of that and we try to generate our own enthusiasm.”
The Eagles certain seemed to be enthusiastic — not to mention opportunistic — from the opening faceoff. Just 5:14 into the game, sophomore Chris Collins banged home a major rebound surrendered by Dartmouth netminder Dan Yacey, who, after a shaky first period settled down to post a career-high 36 saves.
The Big Green answered at 12:06 on Eric Przepiorka’s third goal of the season. The goal was originally waved off by assistant referee Chris Aughe for a hand pass. But upon discussion, referee Jeff Bunyon ruled that Przepiorka passed the puck to himself before pushing it past Eagles goaltender Matti Kaltiainen (13 saves).
BC answered just 50 seconds later when Ryan Shannon’s shot from the left point on the power play deflected off a Dartmouth defender into the net. That, combined with an assist on Collins’ goal, gave Shannon his third straight multi-point game. Shannon has a seven-game point-scoring streak and leads the Eagles in points with 15.
Before the first period was over, the Eagles struck again. This time it was Ned Havern scoring his first of the year firing a knuckler past Yacey. Though scored unassisted, the play was made possible when sophomore Steven Gionta buried a Dartmouth defenseman, forcing the turnover to Havern.
After outshooting the Big Green, 12-3, in the opening period, the Eagles defense allowed but 11 shots the rest of the way; six in the second and five while protecting the two-goal third-period lead.
The past week has seen the Eagles grossly outshoot two other opponents — Merrimack in a 3-3 tie and Providence in a 7-4 game that saw BC score three goals in the closing minutes. York’s concern entering Tuesday’s game was the ability to “close out” the Big Green if his team attained a two-goal lead. In his mind, Tuesday’s game was mission accomplished.
“We talked this week about closing out games when we have the lead,” said York. “You look at teams like the New Jersey Devils who when they have the lead they just shut everybody down. Going into the third period with a two-goal lead we knew championship teams can just close the door there.”
A major key to BC’s defensive focus as well was limiting Dartmouth’s Hugh Jessiman offensively. Though he was able to set up the only Dartmouth goal, the Eagles held the New York Rangers first-round draft choice to only one shot.
“Jessiman brings a lot to the Dartmouth team,” said York. “We were very conscious of him all night.”
With the win, the Eagles head into Thanksgiving with an 8-2-3 record (4-0-2 Hockey East). Given the fact that they’ve played much of the year with injuries, notably Dave Spina and Patrick Eaves, both of whom were missing on Tuesday night, York is very satisfied with their current position.
“Injuries are tough, but we’re happy with where we’re at,” said York. “We’re playing well and getting scoring from all of our lines. That’s what we need.”
Dartmouth, one day after making its highest-ever appearance in the national poll at No. 11, drops to 4-1-3 on the season (3-0-3 ECAC). Gaudet, though wishing he could have won, will take this game as a learning experience.
“This is a young team,” said Gaudet of his club, “so this is a great experience for us. We have four seniors that played tonight, so we have inexperience guys playing key positions.
“We don’t play this game to lose it, but the reason why we want to play a team like Boston College is to play hard and learn some lessons. This is a good lesson for us tonight. We’ll be better as the season progresses and we’ll be better in our league after we play these non-league games.”
Each team returns to action this weekend, with Dartmouth continuing nonleague play at No. 12 Boston University on Friday, and Boston College facing Northeastern at home on Saturday.