Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Know Your Enemy: Dartmouth

Poor Dartmouth. It has to be absolutely maddening how many halfway decent seasons the Big Green can put together and still, they remain on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament. In December, it seemed to be obvious that the 32-year drought, the longest in the nation, was going to come to an end. By March, a 33rd year had been added as inconsistency on both sides of the puck dogged Dartmouth out of a first-round bye, almost into a first round loss, and out of the playoffs after being dominated by Union in the quarterfinals.

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 (17th season)
2012-13 Record: 15-14-5 (9-9-4 ECAC, 5th place)
Series: RPI leads, 42-32-5
First Game: January 17, 1908 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: February 2, 2013 (Troy, NY)
Last DC win: November 9, 2012 (Hanover, NH)

2013-14 games: November 2, 2013 (Hanover, NH); January 24, 2014 (Troy, NY)

Key players: D Taylor Boldt, sr.; G Cab Morris, sr.; F Eric Robinson, sr.;  F Jesse Beamish, jr.; F Brandon McNally, jr.; F Charlie Mosey, jr.; F Eric Neiley, jr.; D Rick Pinkston, jr.; F Tyler Sikura, jr.; F Nick Bligh, so.; D Ryan Bullock, so.; D Geoff Ferguson, so.; G Charles Grant, so.; F Tim O'Brien, so.; F Brett Patterson, so.; F Brad Schierhorn, so.; D Josh Hartley, fr.; F Kyle Nickerson, fr.

Key losses: D Mike Keenan, F Dustin Walsh, F Matt Lindblad

Previous KYE installments:
Conventional wisdom had Dartmouth and Quinnipiac heading off to the races as December wound down. The Big Green had a 5-0-1 record heading into mid-November, and were 8-3-2 as champagne corks popped for New Year's 2013. Unfortunately, the team picked up just seven more victories in the two and a half months that followed, two of them coming in the ECAC First Round against last-place Harvard, but only after dropping Game 1.

By January, Dartmouth had become a team that lived and died with its offensive output as the Big Green's defense, which had been solid in the waning months of 2012, began to falter a bit. All season, Dartmouth won just one game in which they didn't score at least three goals (a 2-1 win over Brown at home in early November), but it became far more pronounced in the second half of the season as the team started putting up a number of one and two goal outputs that simply didn't get the job done.

Although Morris put up some decent numbers in net overall - .915 save percentage, 2.14 GAA - by the end of the season he was splitting time with Grant, and heading into this season both goaltenders appear to be vying for the top position, especially given that Grant backstopped the come-from-behind series victory over Harvard before being lit up by Union. Numbers-wise, although Morris' save percentage could be better, only Jason Kasdorf returns to ECAC play this season with better overall numbers than him in league play.

Offensively, a bit of a gut-punch followed the end of Dartmouth's season as Lindblad bolted for the Boston Bruins with a year of eligibility left in Hanover. The junior was second on the team in scoring and would have been a likely candidate to reach 100 career points this season had he stuck around. Walsh (3rd) and Keenan (6th) were also among the top scorers on the team.

Fortunately, there's still plenty of talent that powered the Big Green's early-season successes. Sikura led the team in both goals and assists, Robinson had a breakout season, and Dartmouth enjoyed eye-opening successes from O'Brien and Schierhorn in their freshman campaigns. With Lindblad's departure, things might open up more for McNally, who hit a touch of sophomore slump last season after an outstanding freshman year.

The incoming class isn't huge, but like the Engineers, the Big Green should have an outstanding core of juniors and sophomores to power the offense. The question comes on defense - Dartmouth has a mostly young d-corps and question marks, albeit with some good available answers in net. Although both Morris and Grant offer decent options between the pipes, this team is going to need stability there quickly to back the offense.

RPI should expect a Dartmouth team closer to the one that breezed past them last November in Hanover rather than the disorganized one that was turned aside in last year's Freakout for sure, but with Dartmouth, it's a matter of reaching a high level and staying there throughout the season, something they've just been unable to do despite a decade that has seen more successes than failures overall.

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