HANOVER, N.H. — Last weekend at the Sheraton/Banknorth classic, Dartmouth and Vermont had nearly identical results on the ice, as each team tied Massachusetts and beat Minnesota State. However, Dartmouth’s plus-3 goal differential topped UVM’s plus-1, and Dartmouth took home the tournament title.
Less than a week later, Dartmouth and Vermont, at opposite ends of the ECAC schedule, played each other tough, but the Big Green came out two goals ahead once again, defeating the Catamounts, 7-5, in a wild, but triumphant return to Thompson Arena.
“We did what we had to do,” Big Green head coach Bob Gaudet said. “I thought they [Vermont] played very well, and they’re very opportunistic. They’ve got an explosive team in transition. They forced some errors and capitalized. I thought they played really well.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon did not meet with the media following the game because of illness.
“I think we did some pretty positive things out there tonight,” said Catamounts assistant Damian DiGiulian, whose team had a three-game unbeaten streak snapped. “Obviously, we need to work a little bit on our defensive zone, but we don’t feel like we put a dent [in our momentum] at all. We’re going to focus on our positives and work on some of the things we need to work on.”
What was a 5-5 tie after two periods, didn’t last long, as the Big Green went ahead just 53 seconds into the third. A blocked Vermont shot high in the zone led to a 3-on-2 breakaway for the Big Green. Eric Przepiorka gave the puck to Hugh Jessiman, who then passed the puck in the middle to rookie Tanner Glass. The Florida Panthers draftee launched a high shot that went into the back of the net just before he did himself, and Dartmouth took a 6-5 lead.
“I think it was just a great breakout,” said Glass, who has played only five games this year due to an early season bout with mononucleosis, but has four points in those games. “Przepiorka got it across to Hugh, I just tried to find some space in the neutral zone. Hugh made a great play to get it to me, and I just tried to go backhand upstairs, and it went in.”
The Dartmouth lead grew to 7-5 moments later, as Mike Ouellette picked up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle and launched it in for an unassisted tally.
“We found a way to really settle things down in the third period,” Gaudet said. “We had a couple of really big goals. Tanner got a great goal, and Mikey Ouellette [did as well].”
Ouellette’s shot was the last one that Scott Sortal saw, as starter Travis Russell returned to the Vermont net to stop the bleeding. Russell did stop the bleeding in net, but there was nothing he could do with 1:37 left in the game, when a fight broke out in front of the UVM bench.
By the time the referees separated the players involved — and “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” had stopped playing over the arena speakers — seven players were in the penalty box. Six players received minors for roughing and misconduct, as well as 10-minute misconducts: Dartmouth’s Nathan Szymanski, Grant Lewis and Mike Turner, along with Vermont’s Joey Gasparini, Gerard Miller and captain Jaime Sifers. In addition, the Cats’ Scott Mifsud went to the box for the elbowing penalty at mid-ice that set off the skirmish.
Following the penalties, Vermont pulled Russell. The empty net proved the Catamounts’ most effective goalkeeper of the evening, but the penalty to Mifsud left the visitors unable to benefit from the extra skater, and Dartmouth took home a two-goal win, much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 4,500.
“It was great to be home,” Gaudet said. “It was just an awesome crowd. The support has been fantastic, and I think the guys were a little bit in awe when we came out. They were jacked up.”
“We came back to a packed house and tried to put on a good show for the fans,” Dartmouth forward Lee Stempniak said. “There’s nothing like playing in Thompson Arena for us.”
With Dartmouth playing at home for the first time since Nov. 8, and Vermont on a three-game unbeaten streak, both teams entered the game with a great deal of energy, which showed during a six-goal first period.
The Big Green wasted no time in pleasing the home crowd, scoring a mere 52 seconds into the contest. Lewis picked up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle, skated towards the net and lifted the puck over Russell (32 saves) for the unassisted tally.
The Catamounts, though, showed the resilience that has allowed them to come from behind in each of their last three games, and scored the equalizing tally just over two minutes later. Chris Myers scored his second career goal, beating Dartmouth keeper Dan Yacey (25 saves) from point-blank range. Vermont proceeded to take a 2-1 lead with at the 12:59 mark, as Mifsud turned a loose puck into a go-ahead goal.
The visitors lead didn’t last long, as Przepiorka carried the puck in from the left corner and beat Russell for his fourth goal. Przepiorka’s goal, scored unassisted, was his 12th point of the season, leaving the Gross Pointe, Mich., native only four points off of his freshman season total of 16 points.
A 4-on-3 power play yielded the fifth goal of the period with 4:03 to play, as Stempniak put his team up 3-2. Stempniak followed that with a breakaway tally in the period’s final minute, as Ouellette slipped the puck ahead, and Stempniak drew Russell out of the net and put the puck in.
“Right now the offense is doing well for us,” Stempniak said, “and the power play is doing well.”
When the teams returned to the ice for the second period, Yacey was conspicuous by his absence, as a broken skate forced the junior netminder to remain in the locker room. The equipment problem resulted in a short stint in net for freshman Sean Samuel, who saw his first collegiate ice time in Dartmouth’s 8-5 win over Minnesota State last weekend. The rookie made a tough glove save during 2:12 of action before Yacey returned.
After Yacey returned, however, a crosschecking penalty to Przepiorka opened up the floodgates for the Catamounts. First, Vermont made good on the man advantage, as Mifsud scored his second of the night on a high shot that went over Yacey’s right shoulder and into the net. From there, Dartmouth mishandled the puck in their own end, and junior Chris Smart picked up the loose puck for his first career goal, an unassisted tally that tied the game.
“I think our guys feel they can always come back,” said DiGiulian, “and they always have a chance to win a game. We feel pretty good whether we’re ahead or behind, we’re always going to feel like we should win that game until the final buzzer. ”
Dartmouth picked up the intensity, but couldn’t seem to get the right shot to beat Russell. Then, during a 4-on-4, Jessiman launched a low wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Russell along the ice. The goal sent Russell to the bench, as junior Scott Sortal made his sixth appearance of the season.
The Catamounts wasted no time in getting a fifth goal of their own, though, as Leisenring scored his fourth goal of the season on a breakaway, and the teams headed to the second intermission tied, 5-5.
The Catamounts will have an opportunity to avenge the loss in front of their own home crowd next Saturday night, when these teams meet again at Gutterson Field House. In the meantime, the Catamounts will take on No. 4 Maine in Portland on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.