HANOVER, N.H. — That ‘D’ in the school name must stand for Direct. There isn’t much else to describe the way Dartmouth went at Yale in the opening game of their ECAC Hockey League tournament opener at Thompson Arena on Friday.
The fifth-seeded Big Green took the direct route, exploding for three goals on 10 shots inside the opening 13 minutes of play and eventually routing the 12th-seeded Bulldogs, 7-2, for a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Nick Johnson, Sean Offers and Lee Stempniak all solved Bulldog netminder Matt Modelski by the 12:53 mark of the first period as the Big Green (18-10-2) cruised. A win in Saturday’s 7 p.m. contest sends Dartmouth to a best-of-three quarterfinal at Vermont next weekend.
“It’s just starting well, playing hard right off the bat, not waiting,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “That’s kind of just the way we play, and the way we need to play.”
Dartmouth wasted little time in putting the Bulldogs (4-24-2) in the back yard.
Johnson whipped a Mike Ouellette centering pass over Modelski’s glove at 6:55, with Offers repeating the feat from the left hash just 82 seconds later. By the time Stempniak shoveled the rebound of a Grant Lewis wrister past Modelski at 12:53, the Big Green had an unofficial 10-1 edge in shots on goal and a 3-0 advantage on the scoreboard.
“It’s huge,” Offers said. “At the start of the playoffs, everyone is nervous. You don’t rally know what to expect. … To get the first couple of goals early in the first period just showed we had a good team, that we could come out and play strong and take control of the game.”
Tanner Glass bumped the lead to 4-0 with a shorthanded wrister through Modelski’s pads at 17:28. Jean-Francois Boucher saved a little face for Yale by tapping Jeff Hristovski’s right-wing boards pass behind Dartmouth goaltender Dan Yacey (18 saves) with 27 seconds left before the first intermission.
It did little good. The Big Green chased Modelski with goals from Offers and Ouellette (one goal, two assists) by the 8:55 mark of the second period. Sophomore leading scorer Brad Mills — a surprise returnee to the Yale lineup after a five-game injury absence — beat Yacey late in the second period for a 6-2 deficit, but Dartmouth got that back when Eric Przepiorka solved relief netminder Josh Gartner (16 saves) on a rebound with 3:10 left in the game.
“Certainly, the first period knocked us out of the game,” Yale coach Tim Taylor said. “It’s a difficult matchup for us, because they’re so strong offensively and we’ve been struggling defensively. It’s got to be our task in this series, if we have a chance of winning, is to have a low-scoring game. And they’re a tough team to get involved in a low-scoring game.”
Dartmouth has now won seven straight games from the Elis. An eighth will send Yale home for the season — directly.
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.