HANOVER, N.H. — Captain Lee Stempniak and freshman linemate Nick Johnson both netted two goals and one assist as Dartmouth exacted a measure of revenge on Vermont, 6-3, in the championship game of the Ledyard National Bank Tournament Thursday at Thompson Arena.
The Big Green, who have been struggling to score goals all season, tallied a season-high for goals in a game and broke open what was a scoreless game through one period, scoring three goals in the middle frame and adding three more in the third to come away with the title.
“It’s huge to get some goals,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “It’s been difficult for us to score. We shoot fifty pucks last night and can’t really find the back of the net. I think the shootout goals helped us. We beat a really good goalie (BGSU’s Jordan Sigalet) a couple of times, and I think that’ s a positive stepping stone.”
Dartmouth goaltender Sean Samuel backboned his team and stopped 35-of-38 shots in the win. That performance coupled with 28 saves Wednesday in the win of the opening-round game of the tournament earned him Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament.
In the first period, Dartmouth did not look like the same team that fell 5-1 to its I-89 rivals eleven days ago. The Big Green put 12 shots on Vermont netminder Joe Fallon from all angles and controlled the flow throughout the opening twenty minutes. Despite the offensive onslaught, the game remained scoreless.
The Dartmouth offense got going just two minutes in, when a Vermont skater mishandled the puck at the blue line on a power play. Nathan Szymanski gathered it and found his way into the Vermont zone with David Jones on the left side. He dished to Jones and Fallon slid across to make the save.
Fallon again kept the Catamounts in the game midway through the period. With his team killing a penalty, he made a number of saves, including some sparklers from in close.
But the Cats didn’t get out of the period without a little luck. Both Ben Lovejoy and Przepiorka rang the iron with 5:48 and 0:17 left in the period respectively.
Dartmouth broke through on Fallon and Vermont at 4:35 of the second period. Nick Johnson walked out of the left-wing corner and wristed a shot that hit Fallon in the shoulder and climbed over his back for the lead. Mike Ouellette picked up the assist on the play.
When Przepiorka went off with a roughing call at 4:53, Vermont had 1:53 of a five-on-three advantage. But the Cats couldn’t convert on the lengthy advantage as it was Samuel’s turn to shine in net. He made some great saves, four on the kill in all, to keep Vermont off the board. The Dartmouth defense did its part clearing rebounds that Samuel gave up, to kill the penalties.
Nathan Szymanski extended the lead for the home squad at 11:11. The senior’s shot glanced off a player in front of the net and in past Fallon for his first of the year. Grant Lewis and Garrett Overlock assisted on the goal. Dartmouth was not done in the period. Przepiorka fired a big rebound into the net just as the buzzer sounded ending the period. After some discussion the score was awarded at 19:59.
The Big Green added to their lead as Johnson scored his second of the night. He tipped a shot from Stempniak by Fallon. Mike Hartwick got the second assist on Johnson’s fifth of the season.
Torrey Mitchell put the Cats on the board at 8:06 on a rebound off of an initial shot by Scott Mifsud. The goal jump-started Vermont. The Cats began to play with urgency in their game. Then, Stempniak scored his fourth of the year, a little over two minutes later. The goal, at the time, threatened to quell any UVM momentum.
Vermont showed its resilience with another score to make it a 5-2 game. Mifsud scooted into the Dartmouth zone ahead of his teammates, circled the ice until he found Jaime Sifers cutting to the net. Sifers took the pass and found the net behind Samuel.
Among the leaders nationally in a handful of offensive categories, Mifsud lit the lamp at 17:19 for his third point of the game for a 5-3 score.
That was as close as the Cats would get, as Stempniak found the twine of an empty net for the final margin.
“We didn’t play anywhere near where we needed to play to beat a team like that,” said a frustrated Kevin Sneddon, Vermont head coach. “For that, it’s disappointing. But all the credit belongs to the Big Green. I thought they played a great weekend. They played great against Bowling Green last night and just couldn’t score, and tonight, unfortunately, they found their offense against us. They certainly deserve the hardware.”
Fallon finished the night with 26 saves on on 31 shots.
Dartmouth was 2-for-5 on the power play, while Vermont went 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
Both teams travel to the Capital District of New York next week returning to league play. Dartmouth (5-6-2) faces Rensselaer and Vermont (11-6-3) skates with Union on Friday.
“I thought we played two and a half really, really solid periods of hockey,” Guadet said. “Vermont’s got an excellent hockey team. This doesn’t hurt them it helps us.”
F Colin McDonald, Providence
F Jeff Corey, Vermont
F Tanner Glass, Dartmouth
D Jaime Sifers, Vermont
D Eric Lundberg, Providence
G Jordan Sigalet, Bowling Green
MVP Sean Samuel, Dartmouth