BURLINGTON, Vt. — Neither No. 14 Dartmouth nor No. 9 Massachusetts had played since December 13 when the Big Green and Minutemen hit the ice for the opening game of the Sheraton/Banknorth Classic. Both teams sported identical 1-2-1 records against their common opponents. In short, as Dartmouth and UMass faced off at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Field House, signs pointed to an even-handed affair.
And, despite periods of dominance for both teams, an even-handed affair was indeed what transpired, as the teams skated to a 3-3 tie.
“I thought we played well in the first, not so well in the second, and very well in the third,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “I thought we played really well.”
“The biggest issue right now is trying to sustain an effort for 60 minutes,” said UMass head coach Don “Toot” Cahoon. “Neither team played for two weeks, so it’s very hard to sustain a level of play.”
Dartmouth looked to take an early advantage when UMass forward John Luszcz was hit with a roughing penalty, but it was the Minutemen who picked up a quick goal, as Thomas Pck scored shorthanded after an icing penalty landed the puck in Dartmouth’s zone. Peter Trovato assisted on the goal, Pock’s 11th of the season.
The Big Green answered with 13:42 to go in the period, as sophomore Darcy Marr scored his first goal of the season. The forward from Abbotsford, B.C., broke up a pass just outside the UMass blueline, and took it in for the equalizing 4-on-4 goal.
“I just got lucky,” said Marr, who was playing his first game after returning from an ankle injury. “I picked off the pass, put my head down and shot, and it went in.”
Dartmouth earned another power play midway through the period, but a goal by Eric Przepiorka was waved off after an early whistle. Both teams struggled to get good looks in the first period, as a total of just 12 shots on goal was registered (UMass 8, Dartmouth 4).
UMass moved into the lead four minutes into the second period, as a 3-on-1 breakaway resulted in a goal for junior Josh Hanson. The combination of Hanson, Pck, and freshman Kevin Jarman proved too much for the Big Green, and it looked as if the Minutemen might prove too much overall for a third straight year.
Dartmouth found itself overmatched again just after the 10-minute mark, as a 5-on-3 power play led to a goal for UMass freshman John Toffey, who scored his second career goal off assists from Pck and Matt Fetzer. The Big Green would successfully kill off another 5-on-3, however, then grab a 5-on-3 advantage of its own, on successive penalties to Minutemen Sean Regan and Mike Warner.
This time, it was Dartmouth’s turn to overpower its opponent, as team scoring leader Hugh Jessiman potted his seventh tally of the year off a cross-ice pass from linemate Eric Przepiorka. Freshman defenseman Grant Lewis also picked up a helper on the play, giving him a team-best nine assists this season.
The goal by Jessiman seemed to energize the Big Green, as the team’s intensity picked up through the remainder of the period, and continued into the opening of third. That paid off 2:04 into the final frame, as junior Nathan Szymanski scored off of a pass from assistant captain Lee Stempniak (sophomore defenseman Dave Thompson also picked up an assist).
“When the team puts together that many shifts, it builds momentum,” Szymanski said, “and with the momentum we generated, we slowly pushed them off. The puck squirted back to Thompson from the point. Thompson took a shot, and it kind of bumbled around in front, and I just smacked it in.”
Tied 3-3 with 17:56 to play, both teams began to feel a sense of urgency, as intensity on both sides heated up a bitterly cold Gutterson Field House. However, in a reversal from the first two periods, it was Dartmouth that took the game to the Minutemen. An obstruction-interference penalty to Regan didn’t help the UMass cause, and Big Green head coach Bob Gaudet called timeout, rallying his troops for a crucial power play.
A goal, however, was not forthcoming, as the Minutemen successfully killed off the penalty. Dartmouth kept up the pressure, though, continuing to test UMass netminder Gabe Winer (20 saves). Meanwhile, Dartmouth keeper Dan Yacey (29 saves), who had been on the receiving end of substantial pressure early in the contest, was able to get a clear view of every UMass shot. As the third period came to a close, neither team was able to get the go-ahead goal, and the game went to overtime.
Neither team has been a stranger to overtime this season, as it was Dartmouth’s fifth sudden-death session of the season, and the fourth for the Minutemen. Neither team had settled anything in the extra session, but UMass looked to end that early, getting a breakaway. Yacey stood tall in net, however, stopping the initial shot by Hanson, then putting his glove out for an improbable second save against Jarman.
Said Yacey, “Our goalie coach tells us, even though your gloves are small, you can make them look big.”
Yacey’s “big-looking” glove shut down what proved to be the biggest scoring threat for either team in the period. The rest of the extra session passed without a goal, and two evenly matched teams ended the game as one might have expected.
Both teams will play in Gutterson again Sunday. Dartmouth (4-2-5) takes on Minnesota State (4-10-3) at 4 p.m., and UMass (9-4-4) closes the Sheraton/Banknorth Classic at 7 p.m. against host Vermont (2-11-2). On Saturday night, the Catamounts defeated MSU, 3-2.