Unheralded Dartmouth has talent at each position

Dartmouth is like the Nashville Predators of ECAC Hockey: it doesn’t generate a whole lot of attention most of the time, yet every time you turn around, there it is, hanging around the top of the hill. It’s a credit to veteran coach Bob Gaudet and his staff that he can regularly draw the talent they do to a place that seems so similar to Cornell: a non-Princeton/Harvard/Yale Ivy in a small town in the middle of nowhere, in an older rink with a seasoned coach and Harvard as your rival.

The credit, of course, is for the fact that there’s already a Cornell in ECAC Hockey, and the original is pretty good in its own right. And yet, here we are: Dartmouth’s still a contender, too.

“We’ve got a very deep team in terms of numbers and ability,” said Gaudet. “I think Doug Jones is a very unheralded guy — a really, really outstanding player both offensively and defensively. Matty Lindblad is a guy that reminds me of one of our really good players from a few years back, Mike Ouellette. Lindblad is a skilled guy, has excellent offensive ability, and is a very reliable defensive player. He’s stronger this year. There’s another gear to him, and I think we’re going to see that this year. I think he’s an NHL-caliber player. He’s going to be a key player for us.”

Lindblad finished last season — his first in Hanover — tied for second on the team in goals (13) and fourth in points (28). Adam Estoclet’s 16 goals and Scott Fleming’s 13 will certainly be missed, but having Lindblad, senior Nick Walsh and junior Dustin Walsh (10 goals each last year) should help settle the nerves a bit in the Granite State.

A newcomer from down the road already has Gaudet drooling, and reminds the coach of one of his former players, now skating with the Winnipeg Jets.

“Brandon McNally from Belmont Hill is going to be a fabulous player at the collegiate level,” Gaudet said. “He’s a big, strong guy — he’s a 6-[foot-]2, 185-pound kid that can score. He reminds me a bit of Tanner Glass, initially, because he plays really hard and has an outstanding skill level. Good kid, too, very down-to-earth.”

The goaltending looks sound from the get-go, as James Mello posted stellar stats en route to a 17-9-3 junior season. It’s a new year in New Hampshire, where the Green are looking golden.

About the Big Green

2010-11 overall record: 19-12-3

2010-11 ECAC record: 12-8-2 (third)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Fifth

Key losses: F Scott Fleming, F Adam Estoclet, F Matt Reber, D Evan Stephens, D Joe Stejskal

Players to watch: Senior F Doug Jones, senior G James Mello, junior F Dustin Walsh, sophomore F Matt Lindblad

Impact rookie: F Brandon McNally

Why the Big Green will finish higher than the coaches poll: Mello has a career year, Lindblad continues to improve despite extra attention, and the supporting cast makes the most of the space.

Why the Big Green will finish lower than the coaches poll: Sophomore slump strikes Lindblad, another key scorer misses significant time, and/or Mello goes out with a whimper.