Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Dartmouth

For RPI, it's finally reaching Lake Placid again. For Dartmouth, it's ending the longest active NCAA tournament drought. The long awaited goal, so often dangled like a raw meat bone in front of a starving dog, so close, and yet sometimes seeming so far away. It happened again to the Big Green last year, coming so close to that yearned for bid, but just barely missing out at the end. Due to Michigan Tech's appearance for the first time since 1981 this past season, Dartmouth's drought is now longer than any other team's by a full decade - Bowling Green hasn't been in the NCAAs since 1990, and the Falcons were the first team out last year.

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 (19th season)
2014-15 Record: 17-12-4 (12-8-2 ECAC, 4th place)
Series: RPI leads, 46-35-5
First Game: January 17, 1908 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: November 8, 2014 (Troy, NY)
Last DC win: January 30, 2015 (Hanover, NH)

2015-16 games: December 4, 2015 (Troy, NY); February 13, 2016 (Hanover, NH)

Key players: F Jack Barre, sr.; D Ryan Bullock, sr.; D Geoff Ferguson, sr.; G James Kruger, sr.; F Brett Patterson, sr.; F Brad Schierhorn, sr.; F Grant Opperman, jr.; F Carl Hesler, so.; F Corey Kalk, so.; D Tim Shoup, so.; F John Ernsting, fr.; F Alex Jasiek, fr.; F Kevan Kilistoff, fr.; D Connor Yau, fr.

Key losses: F Eric Neiley, F Tyler Sikura, F Eric Robinson, F Brandon McNally, D Rick Pinkston, D Andy Simpson, F Jesse Beamish, F Charlie Mosey

Previous KYE installments:
From Dartmouth's perspective, the worst thing about last season was really pinpointing exactly where they went wrong, especially down the stretch. From January 23 through the end of the first round of the ECAC playoffs, the Big Green put together a record of 11-2-1 - and then their season ended at Colgate, swept but in two very hard fought games in which neither team ever had a serious edge on the other. The only thing one could really point to was their inability to beat Colgate (0-3-1) - a better record probably would have been enough to boost them into the place they needed to be in the PairWise Rankings to earn that elusive at-large bid - and of course, if it had happened in the playoffs, could have boosted them toward the automatic bid.

And if there was to be a season to break that unlucky streak, it does seem like last year would have been the one in which to do it. Overloaded with upperclassmen, Dartmouth was set up well both offensively and defensively, with an excellent combination of talent and experience that ended up making them one of the best teams in the conference. In the end, their resume just wasn't enough to overcome the strong league seasons of Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence, and Colgate especially (although they did manage a season split with the Bobcats, who they played very well).

Unfortunately, the Big Green were left with no hardware despite their outstanding campaign, and now they face life without several key cogs in the offensive machine, especially Neiley, Sikura, McNally, and Robinson - the latter of which they were fortunate to have for last season after a medical redshirt essentially moved his senior season down a year. They were all in the top six scorers from last season.

Schierhorn (10 goals, 12 assists) returns for his senior season as the team's leading scorer, enjoying a breakout junior campaign after being the playoff hero in Troy two seasons ago. Opperman (19 points), Patterson (14) and Barre (10) are the only returning forwards to hit double digits in points last season. That means there's plenty of room to be made up by underclassmen and freshmen, but they have some serious boots to fill, especially in Sikura and Neiley.

Defensively, Dartmouth should continue to be very sound. After a couple of seasons in a backup role, Kruger really came into his own last year and certainly seized the top job in the Big Green crease. A solid follow-up season to his 1.98, .926 showing would be good enough by itself, but they also return four regular defensemen from last season's squad as well.

A good defense, as we've been mentioning, is usually enough to boost you up a bit, so let's not expect the Big Green to turn into a bunch of pushovers overnight. They may not have the offensive bite that they had last season, but there's plenty there to make one believe that Dartmouth is going to more likely be on the top half of the ECAC table this season than on the bottom.

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