Skill level impresses Gaudet as Dartmouth gets satisfying results

It will go down as a tie in the record books, but last Friday’s opener against Yale in the Ivy Shootout has to be satisfying for Dartmouth.

The Big Green advanced to the championship game via shootout, snapping a 10-game skid against the Bulldogs dating to 2008.

Dartmouth won Saturday’s game against Brown to take the Ivy Shootout title for the first time in the tournament’s three-year history. The Big Green had advanced to the two previous title games, where they lost to — who else — Yale each time.

“There was a stretch there where we could do no wrong against them,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “But let’s face it, [Yale’s] been pretty good.”

Not only was beating Yale unusual for the current group of Big Green players, none of whom played in the Big Green’s 7-2 win over the Bulldogs in 2008, but the way they did was out of the norm as well.

“Not at all,” Gaudet said when asked if Dartmouth works on the shootout in practice. “At some point in the week guys are going one-on-zero against the goaltender, but we never practice the shootout. I talked to Tyler Sikura just before the referee came up to ask who wanted to shoot first and he said, ‘I’d like to shoot first.’ He made a great move and scored and then Cab Morris made a good save on Yale’s first shooter. It was fun.”

Even thought the shootout isn’t something the Big Green work on, Gaudet is still impressed with the skill level of his team. It’s only going to get better with the return of forward Dustin Walsh, a Montreal Canadiens draft pick who’s returning from an injury that kept him out most of last year.

“He really looks to be one of our top few players every day in practice,” Gaudet said. With the later start date for Ivy schools, Gaudet said they’re taking it slow with Walsh, leaving it up to him to decide when he’s ready.

When he does return it will be in a bit of a limited role, as Gaudet said the Big Green will use him at even strength and the power play, but hold off on any short-handed minutes for the time being.

“He’s not far off; we’re crossing our fingers,” Gaudet said.

Freshman defender Ryan Bullock is dealing with a nagging injury that’s kept him out of action. Freshman forward Nick Bligh took a hard hit last Saturday and is uncertain for this weekend, but Gaudet doesn’t expect him to miss any extended time.

Freshman Charles Grant followed up Morris’ outing with a shutout in his collegiate debut in the Ivy Shootout championship against Brown.

Gaudet said goaltender will be a gut call going forward, adding that freshman James Kruger could see time as well.

Gut check for Union?

It was a weekend of varying emotions for Union. Friday night was nothing but elation as the Dutchmen rolled over American International 8-0, giving coach and Springfield native Rick Bennett a win in the same arena in which he played midget hockey.

“It’s kind of funny, sitting in the locker room and I remember the benches over on the other side and a few other things,” said Bennett, who played two years with Springfield’s AHL franchise in addition to winning a Western Massachusetts high school hockey title in 1984. “I’ve been really fortunate as a person to play hockey here growing up and playing in the American league. To come back here as a coach is really special.”

But any good feelings quickly evaporated into frustration Saturday, when the Dutchmen needed a late goal from Greg Coburn to salvage a 2-2 tie against Connecticut in Storrs. Union was stonewalled by UConn’s Garrett Bartus, who made 39 saves, including 21 in the final period.

Did Friday’s blowout have any impact?

“It’s always tough when you play a game where it’s 8-0 and you kind of beat a team down a little bit,” Dutchmen captain Mat Bodie said Saturday. “[UConn] played a nail-biter the night before against Holy Cross so they were used to playing tight games and you could definitely tell that within the first 10 minutes.”

Bennett said he was disappointed with Union’s effort but was quick to give credit to the Huskies.

“When you don’t come ready to play it’s going to be a battle and that’s what they gave us,” Bennett said Saturday. “I just thought they kept it simple but the most important thing is that they worked hard to get their chances. I didn’t think we matched their intensity one bit.”

Even with the tie, Union enters ECAC play with a 3-1-1 record and solid special teams play, scoring a power-play goal in four straight games while killing 17-of-19 penalties with three short-handed goals.

Still, you have to think Bennett and his staff will spend this week harping on the Dutchmen’s compete level heading into this weekend’s home-and-home series with neighboring Rensselaer.

“They gave us everything and more last year and in the playoffs I thought they gave us the toughest battle outside of Ferris State,” Bennett said of the Engineers.

RPI had this weekend off, but like Union, it will enter the weekend looking for improvements. The Engineers blew two third-period leads two weeks ago at Minnesota State, settling for a tie and overtime loss.

Like Union, the power play has been a strong point thus far for RPI, which is tied for fourth with Boston College, percentage points ahead of the Dutchmen.

Friday’s game at Houston Field House will be the 84th meeting between the teams. Union hasn’t lost a game in regulation at RPI since 2004.

Around the league

Brown: The host Bears got past Princeton in the opener of the Ivy Shootout before falling to Dartmouth Saturday. Junior Marco De Filippo drew both starts in net, turning away 53 of 57 shots.

Clarkson: The Golden Knights are still searching for their first win after a loss and a tie to Niagara. As Brian noted in the weekend wrap up, Clarkson is allowing just under four goals a game (3.8) while scoring just 2.6.

Colgate: Welcome to the topsy-turvy ride of Colgate’s early season. The Raiders exploded for 11 combined goals against Rochester Institute of Technology and Quinnipiac last weekend. The Tigers beat Michigan at home earlier this year, while Quinnipiac entered the weekend among the national leaders in team defense.

Cornell: Some might have questioned the Big Red’s top-10 spot in the early season national polls despite not having played a game, but those doubts were erased with a season-opening sweep of Colorado College. The Big Red were, well, the Big Red, allowing just 40 shots and shutting down the Tigers on all eight of their power-play chances on the weekend. All of Cornell’s goals came on the power play.

Harvard: The Crimson were the last Division I team to get started this season, but they made up for any lost time quickly, scoring two first-period goals in a 5-0 win against Bentley last Saturday. Both the power play and goalie Raphael Girard picked up right where they left off, as the Crimson scored a goal on the man advantage and Girard stopped 31 shots for the win.

Princeton: The Tigers lost a pair of one-goal games to Brown and Yale in the Ivy Shootout last weekend. Senior Mike Condon drew both starts in goal after splitting time with junior Sean Bonar last year.

Quinnipiac: Goaltender Eric Hartzell has been a bit of an enigma thus far. The senior has turned in several outstanding outings yet also has been pulled twice in favor of freshman Michael Garteig, including Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Colgate in the Cape Cod Classic. The Bobcats were 0-for-2 on the power play Saturday and allowed a short-handed goal to the Raiders. Quinnipiac is 0-for-24 on the man advantage this season but has successfully killed all 26 penalties it has taken.

St. Lawrence: The idle Saints moved up to No. 16 in the latest Division I Men’s Poll after just missing the top 20 last week. Even with the time off, Kyle Flanagan still leads the nation in points with 11, while teammate Greg Carey is in a four-way tie for second.

Yale: The Bulldogs’ top six forwards factored in all five goals last weekend, with Antoine Laganiere scoring three and Jesse Root and Kenny Agostino adding one each. Jeff Malcolm and Nick Maricic each got a start in net.

Weekly awards

As announced by the league:

Player of the week — Kyle Bodie, Union: Bodie matched a single-game career best with four points (two goals, two assists) in an 8-0 win at American International last Friday. He added an assist against UConn Saturday.

Goalie of the week — Andy Iles, Cornell: Iles helped Cornell open with a sweep of Colorado College, stopping 38 of 40 shots on the weekend.

Rookie of the week — Jimmy Vesey, Harvard: The freshman had two goals and an assist in his collegiate debut Saturday against Bentley.

Looking ahead

The league championship isn’t until March, and in the grand scheme of things it’s probably low on the list of Atlantic City’s priorities as the East Coast recovers from Hurricane Sandy.

Still, Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette raises an interesting point about the tournament, noting that any potential damage to Boardwalk Hall could force the league to look elsewhere. ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell told Schott he doesn’t have a contingency plan in place, but has been doing some research.