BOSTON — For over a month, Dartmouth couldn’t seem to catch a break.
Following a satisfying 4-1 win over Yale in early December, the Big Green proceeded to battle hard for five straight games – four against ranked teams – only come away with three consecutive 3-2 losses and a pair of ties.
On Wednesday night, Dartmouth was finally rewarded with a bunch of firsts.
Senior Nick Lovejoy scored his first collegiate goal as Dartmouth won its first game since Dec. 6 – and its first nonconference win all season – as the Big Green beat Boston University 4-2 in front of 3,310 at Agganis Arena.
Eric Neiley notched a backbreaking shorthanded goal for the visitors and Charles Grant stopped 26 of 28 shots for the victory.
“I think we’ve been playing well,” Neiley said of the team’s play over the last month. “Ever since we’ve had those two wins against Harvard and Yale, we’ve had close games. The last two games had been ties. We’ve been getting there, we’ve been working on it.
“We’ve still been having fun in practice, trying to stay somewhat positive despite the record. We just knew that if we kept playing for three full periods, we were going to win. Tonight, we just put it all together.”
Cason Hohmann and Matt Grzelcyk scored for the listless Terriers, whose efforts has been consistently lacking in an 0-4-1 stretch since a stirring win against Cornell at Madison Square Garden back on Nov. 30.
“I thought Dartmouth certainly deserved the two points tonight,” BU coach David Quinn said. “From start to finish, they were thorough, and I thought the better team won tonight.”
Quinn was asked to elaborate and did just that.
“[Dartmouth] just won battles,” he said. “The third goal just summarized the game in a nutshell. They win a faceoff, everyone’s in the right position, and three guys lose one-on-one battles. That’s the story of the game, the story of our season.”
BU did strike first, however. Just after killing off a power play near the eight-minute mark of the first period, BU co-captain Garrett Noonan took a shot from the left point. Grant made the initial save, but left a juicy rebound for Hohmann to knock home.
Hohmann has now scored the first goal of the game in the last three games that he’s played.
Dartmouth tied it up in the last minute of the period when Charlie Mosey skated in on the right wing, mulled a pass, and then wristed a high shot past Sean Maguire.
BU regained the lead during a two-man advantage in the second period. Robbie Baillargeon teed up a shot for Grzelcyk from the left point and the defenseman put it in with Danny O’Regan screening Grant.
However, the Big Green got that one back about two minutes later when Brad Schierhorn redirected a shot from Andy Simpson at the point. Maguire stopped it, but Schierhorn knocked in his own rebound.
Dartmouth took its first lead at 18:41 of the period.
As Quinn recounted with disgust, BU lost a series of battles in its zone. Still, Maguire had a chance to freeze the puck with his glove, but missed it and Lovejoy knocked it in for his first goal in 25 collegiate games. The senior, who is also the brother of Ben Lovejoy, a Dartmouth alum and current member of the Anaheim Ducks, relished the moment, especially after a college career that has been hampered by injuries.
“That was fun,” Lovejoy said. “It was easy, actually. Glad I didn’t miss it – it was a wide-open net. Kyle [Nickerson], my first cousin, had the assist on the goal, so that’s special.”
“Nick’s been a defenseman coming in, but he’s turned into a really solid guy at all positions,” Big Green coach Bob Gaudet said. “So now, he’s playing up front for us and doing a good job. What he’s brought us is a level of maturity and leadership.”
Lovejoy’s goal proved to be the game-winner, but the really excruciating goal for BU happened early in the third period.
After Matt Ronan did a good job of drawing a penalty for a BU power play, Hohmann gave away the puck just inside his blue line. Neiley raced off on the shorthanded breakaway and beat Maguire with the backhander.
BU had a few nominal chances after that, but couldn’t seem to summon the energy for one of their patented late-game surges from over the years.
“It was a good win for our guys,” Gaudet said of his team, which is now 3-11-2. “We’ve worked really, really hard. The results haven’t been there on a consistent basis, but we’ve known that we’ve been playing good hockey and good hockey teams.”
In contrast, the loss left Quinn vowing that things would change for the Terriers (7-10-2), who he views as overly comfortable in the face of their anemic play.
“They need to want to win more,” Quinn said. “You go in a corner with somebody, you’ve got to want to win a battle. That’s all it is and we’ve lost that somewhere along the way somehow.
“It’s carelessness with the puck, carelessness without it. It’s laziness more than anything, mental laziness… And it’s going to change.”
BU will hope that Saturday’s date with Maine at Fenway Park prompts a change in mentality, while Dartmouth will attempt to keep the winning momentum going with a game against New Hampshire in Manchester, N.H., on Saturday.