Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Dartmouth

Sometimes, you have to wonder if the Dartmouth of the last ten years is the most snakebitten team in the history of college hockey. Long among the doormats of the ECAC, they've put together year after year of solid performances, and yet, they still haven't been to the NCAA tournament in over 30 years. They came close once again to ending that stretch last season, but by the time the dust had settled, it was the Engineers who, more than anyone, had kept the Big Green on the sidelines in late March (except, perhaps, Alabama-Huntsville, whose win over Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 29 also put RPI over the top).

Dartmouth
Nickname: Big Green
Location: Hanover, NH
Founded: 1769
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 1980
Last Frozen Four: 1980
Coach: Bob Gaudet (15th season)
2010-11 Record: 19-12-3 (12-8-2 ECAC, 3rd place)
Series: RPI leads, 40-30-5
First Game: January 17, 1908 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: January 22, 2011 (Troy, NY)
Last DC win: February 13, 2010 (Hanover, NH)

2011-12 games: January 6, 2012 (Troy, NY); February 11, 2012 (Hanover, NH)

Key players: D Jim Gaudet, sr.; D Connor Goggin, sr.; F Doug Jones, sr.; G James Mello, sr.; F Nick Walsh, sr.; D Mike Keenan, jr.; F Dustin Walsh, jr.; F Matt Lindblad, so.; F Jesse Beamish, fr.; F Brandon McNally, fr.; F Eric Neiley, fr.; F Tyler Sikura, fr.

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

Previous KYE installment:
One could point to the idiosyncrasies of the PairWise Rankings and say that without UAH's win over UNO, Dartmouth would have been in the national tournament, but sometimes you have to look a little closer to home - the Engineers were one of the few teams that had the Big Green's number last year, as only RPI and Yale swept the season series with Dartmouth. The Engineers didn't just win twice, they were a pair of emphatic wins by a combined 9-2 tally. The 4-1 win in Hanover was against freshman Cab Morris in the only 60 minutes he's played in his collegiate career. The 5-1 win in Troy was largely against James Mello, who had been (and still likely is) one of the best goaltenders in the conference.

As a matter of fact, goaltending is probably the one area that Dartmouth will have a leg up on the rest of the league as this season gets underway. Mello does have the best returning numbers of any goaltender since Keith Kinkaid and Allen York are now earning paychecks.

Offensively, there's still a lot to like. Although Fleming and Estoclet depart as the team's top two socring threats, the Walshes, Jones, and last year's rookie sensation Lindblad should provide some good depth on that front, as well as a number of decent freshman pickups.

Defensively, replacing one of the league's better blueliners in Stephens and Stejskal won't be easy, and the Big Green may not be as solid all around in back as they were last year. Keenan, Goggin, and Gaudet provide the experience, but we'll have to see if a diminished blueline impacts the type of numbers that Mello was putting up last year.

Overall, it points to a team that will continue to be competitive in the ECAC, but may have trouble reaching the heights of last season, where they earned a first-round bye for the first time in four years. A very solid defensive front is going to be necessary against the Big Green.

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