HANOVER, N.H. — More and more, the Colorado Avalanche’s decision to select a Vancouver-area 18-year-old named David Jones late in the 2003 NHL draft is looking like the stuff of larceny.
Now a 21-year-old Dartmouth College sophomore, Jones buried his first career collegiate hat trick last night to power the Big Green to a 5-2 win over Clarkson at Thompson Arena. The victory gave Dartmouth (15-11-2 overall, 13-6-2 league) a first-round bye in the ECAC Hockey League tournament for the third time in four years and a share of the league lead with one game to play in the regular season.
After Nick Johnson broke a 2-2 tie 68 seconds into the third period, Jones put the game out of reach with an off-wing wrister through Clarkson goalie David Leggio (31 saves) at 11:04 and an empty-netter with 2:04 to play. Jones now has a team-best 16 goals on the campaign, one that could end with a regular-season league title tonight if everything falls Dartmouth’s way.
“I’m not going to lie; it feels great,” Jones said. “It’s just one of those games where I think I had only three shots, and all three of them went in.”
Mike Devine made 18 saves for the victory in his 17th consecutive start in goal for the Big Green. The teams traded goals through two sluggish periods before favorable breaks kicked Dartmouth’s powerful offense into gear.
Dan Shribman converted a J.T. Wyman breakaway feed just 1:42 into the game to give the Big Green its first lead.
The teams combined to score three more goals in the span of 63 seconds in the second period the Golden Knights’ Mike Sullivan on the power play at 8:01, Jones from the left circle 33 seconds later and Clarkson’s Philippe Paquet another 35 ticks after that.
Johnson broke the deadlock at 1:08 of the third, burning a wrister past Leggio from the left circle. Clarkson coach George Roll appealed for interference in front of Leggio, to no avail.
Two other Golden Knight chances left without divine (rather than Devine) intervention in the ensuing minutes. A Nick Dodge stuff try at 7:20 stayed out despite the sophomore’s protests, while a Jeff Genovy attempt over a sprawled Devine three minutes later was knocked out of the air of a Dartmouth defenseman.
“Early in the third, we had a couple of good shifts off the get-go,” Roll said. “That’s the way it is. They earned those breaks, and we didn’t.”
Jones extended the cushion with his second off-wing goal past Leggio with 8:56 to go. Roll pulled Leggio with 2:44 remaining, but Jones settled the issue from center ice at 17:56.
“As a ninth-round pick, that kid’s an absolute steal,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said.
“He’s clearly one of the top players in our league, not just on our team. And he’s been that way all year.”
Last night’s results leave Dartmouth and Colgate in lock step the ECACHL entering this evening’s finales. The Big Green host No. 18 St. Lawrence; a win and, if needed, favorable tiebreakers with Colgate would give Dartmouth its first regular-season league crown.
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.