HANOVER, N.H. — After losing its first four ECAC Hockey League games to open the season, the Dartmouth Big Green is now heading into the holiday break in the midst of the league race.
Behind two-goal performances from sophomore David Jones and freshman Rob Pritchard, the Big Green reached the .500 mark in ECACHL play Friday night by thumping league-leading Harvard at Thompson Arena, 5-1.
The 14th-ranked Crimson “weren’t physical enough,” according to coach Ted Donato, and were essentially down for the count once Pritchard netted his first two collegiate goals in the second period to turn a 1-0 lead into a more comfortable 3-0 cushion by the second intermission.
“I ask him to be reliable, and a lot of times that requires good defensive play,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said of Pritchard. “But when you get on the ice because you’re reliable, now you have offensive chances, because he’s playing with two guys (Dan Shribman and Jarrett Sampson) who are absolute work-ethic guys.”
The work of Shribman and Sampson turned Pritchard into a prime-time television hero after Jones’ power-play strike gave the Big Green (5-7-0 overall, 5-5-0 league) a 1-0 lead after one period.
Shribman and Sampson, working behind the Harvard goal, fed Pritchard along the left boards for a shot that Crimson defenseman David MacDonald blocked. Pritchard pushed the rebound past MacDonald and put a second-chance wrister past Harvard goalie John Daigneau (38 saves) on the short side at 2:46 of the second stanza for a 2-0 lead.
Pritchard added his second at 11:10. Using Shribman for a screen behind Daigneau, Sampson forced a save from the Harvard goalie at the right post, the rebound of which Pritchard scooped home to up the Dartmouth lead to three.
“I was just trying to get the puck on the net on the first shot,” Pritchard said. “And on the second one, I think the D-man just missed me and I got a shot off.”
Jon Pelle, the most dangerous player on the night for Harvard (9-5-1 overall, 7-5-0 league), cut into the Dartmouth advantage at 5:33 of the third, stripping Big Green blueliner Ben Lovejoy in the neutral zone and scoring unassisted on the ensuing two-on-one.
But Jones had an answer for Dartmouth, slamming home the rebound of a J.T. Wyman shot at 16:39 for his second goal of the evening. Eric Przepiorka added an empty-netter two minutes later for the Big Green, which avenged a season-opening 6-2 loss in Cambridge just before Halloween.
“When we’re not physical, we allow teams to have a lot more poise with the puck,” Donato said. “About the last thing I think of when I think of why we lost was Xs and Os. It had to do more with mental toughness, being prepared to win, being prepared to battle.”
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.