HAMILTON, N.Y. — Despite driving nearly six hours through blizzard conditions and arriving an hour after the scheduled puck drop, the Dartmouth Big Green snowed under Colgate 6-3 at Starr Rink on Saturday night.
Eric Przepiorka collected his third goal of the game upon cashing in an empty-net goal with just ten seconds remaining in the contest. The hat trick marked his second on the season, as Dartmouth (9-8-2, 6-6-0 ECACHL) found the scoring which showed signs of recent resurgence. Despite only scoring once the previous night against Cornell, the Big Green boosted their goal output to 36 in the last seven games.
“You never want to lose two in a row,” said Przepiorka, whose team has never been swept this season. “After losing a tough game last night, we wanted to salvage the weekend by pulling off two points. Two points on the road against Cornell and Colgate is a good weekend.”
Over a foot of snow nearly kept the Big Green from getting the chance to face Colgate (18-6-0, 10-2-0) on Saturday night. A six-hour bus ride from Ithaca to relatively nearby Hamilton pushed the game back two hours and forced the Dartmouth players to go with limited warm-up time. The Big Green seemed to use their grueling road experience as motivation, however.
“We didn’t want to come six hours and not get any points,” said Lee Stempniak. “We were much more relaxed than what you’d expect. It was pretty funny on the bus, and everyone was laughing. When we got here we were pretty loose.”
Przepiorka agreed. “We were all able to focus a little bit more, because we were just all glad to get out of the bus and play some hockey.”
Dartmouth leapt at the Raiders like a caged animal set free, as Przepiorka slipped past a stumbling Colgate defender and rocketed a slap shot over the glove of Raider goalie Steve Silverthorn.
“My slapshot worked out well tonight,” said Przepiorka. “I put both shots where I was aiming, and I just happened to hit the right spot.”
The Big Green grabbed a two goal lead on freshman Nick Johnson’s power play goal later in the first period. The fast start forecasted a victory for Dartmouth, who improved its record to 6-0-1 when leading after one frame.
“We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan. “Our focus just wasn’t there at the beginning of the game. Those two goals we gave up were a big factor in the end.”
Dartmouth picked up another goal on Colgate in the second period, as another high blast from Przepiorka and a power play wrist shot from Grant Lewis outnumbered Raider Adam Mitchell’s redirection and extended the Big Green lead to 4-1 heading into the third period.
Yet the Raiders failed to give in. Darryl McKinnon and Dmitry Yashin scored to bring Colgate within a goal of the visitors with over six minutes remaining. A scorching one-timer from freshman J.T. Wyman and timely goaltending from Dan Yacey left Colgate behind, however.
“Colgate’s got a team that comes at you in waves,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet. “For [Yacey] to stem the tide and make a couple of big saves for us was a big confidence builder for us. He allowed us to chip pucks out of our zone, and then we caught a break with that goal by Wyman. That was a huge goal, and it helped us feed off of some great saves.”
The victory evened the season series between the two teams, as Dartmouth avenged an earlier 2-1 loss to Colgate. The Big Green evened another series with the Raiders, however. Over the past four years, the two clubs have faced each other 14 times, with the match-up now knotted at 6-6-2.
“We didn’t beat them last year, and they stole a game from us this year,” said Stempniak. “So we wanted to come out and make sure that we won this game. I’m sure we’re going to see them somewhere down the line, and we wanted to settle the score.”
Dartmouth, who has suffered from injuries (most notably to New York Ranger first-round draftee Hugh Jessiman) and suspensions due to game disqualifications, will face a similar fate next Friday against Union. Referee Dan Murphy whistled defenseman Sean Offers for checking from behind early in the third period and issued yet another DQ.
“He’s got to make those calls, but it’s disappointing to me, because I’d like to play some games where I had a full complement of players,” said Gaudet. “It seems like every game there’s some issue.”
Colgate stays at home next week, and will attempt to right the ship against St. Lawrence and Clarkson.