All Sections

Chris Duffy's Sports Editor's Notebook: It's all good for Dartmouth football, UNH hockey

Union Leader Sports Editor

October 10. 2017 8:23PM

Observations from two interesting and important Granite State college games nearly 100 miles apart, witnessed in an eight-hour span ...

A rally for the history books

Ivy League football teams get either three or four conference home games, so each one is cherished. None is more cherished than a Homecoming game against a rival.

So motivation should have been thicker than the misty Upper Valley air on Saturday for Dartmouth in its Homecoming contest Yale. Both entered 3-0 overall, 1-0 in the league, and had already logged noteworthy wins. A solid gathering of 8,114 at Memorial Field was ready to howl.

But there was the Big Green throwing a stinker through the bulk of the first two quarters. They were outgained 310-56. Their top receiver, Hunter Hagdorn, aggravated an ankle injury and was done for the day. Yale’s quarterback and feature running back looked like a reincarnation of Brian Dowling and Calvin Hill.

It was 21-0 late and, interestingly, Dartmouth had never before come back from a 21-point deficit to win. Never. In 136 years of football.

Only a beautiful read and pick-six by defensive back Isiah Swann with 2:24 remaining prevented the hosts from total embarrassment. When the Bulldogs kicked a short field goal, it was 24-7 at halftime.

And it was time for Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens to challenge quarterback Jack Heneghan in front of the team. Basically, “go play,” Teevens told his senior leader. That’s all.

Heneghan picked up the gauntlet. First, he directed a quickie drive, covering 91 yards in six plays, culminated by a 30-yard TD pass to wide receiver Drew Hunnicutt.

But the best was yet to come. After another short field goal by Yale — if those short field goals were touchdowns, things would have turned out different — and a 15-minute chunk of scoreless football that seemed like forever, Heneghan and company went back to work down 27-14. With 6:10 to play, he hit Dylan Mellor with a 40-yard TD pass and it was 27-21.

After forcing a fourth straight Yale punt — take a bow, Dartmouth defense — the Big Green took their last shot, starting from their 31 with 4:24 to play. It was then that Heneghan was at his clutch best, converting a fourth-and-three on a 9-yard pass to Mellor, then making like Aaron Rodgers and running for a pair of first downs.

The game-winner was about as dramatic as it gets. On a fourth-and-5 at the Yale 15, with 39 seconds left, Heneghan went for it all and found Hunnicutt over the middle. Hunnicutt took a good shot while hauling in the pass just over the goal line, but the guess here is the junior from the suburbs of Dallas has probably been hit harder in high school.

Touchdown, extra point, 28-27 for Dartmouth — and bedlam at Memorial Field.

“As soon as I caught it, I had to time to secure it and I hugged it like no other,” said Hunnicutt.

Now Dartmouth is the only 2-0 team in the league. The Big Green play a non-leaguer against Sacred Heart on Saturday in Fairfield, Conn., then return home to meet Columbia on Saturday, Oct. 21. The Lions are 1-0 in the Ivies, 4-0 overall for the first time since 1996.

UNH hockey on the radar

Based on preseason polls, not too much was expected of the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team. Hockey East coaches picked the Wildcats for eighth in the 11-team league, right there between Connecticut and Merrimack. The recent usual suspects — Boston University, UMass Lowell, Providence College and Boston College — held down the top four spots.

But there were the Wildcats beating the River Hawks last Friday on opening night, in Lowell no less, and while UNH goalie Danny Tirone played very well in the 4-3 victory, it wasn’t a stand-on-your-head, steal-one kind of performance. In fact, the Wildcats outshot Lowell, 29-23, and trailed only briefly, in the first period.

So the stage was set for the back end of the home-and-home on Saturday at the Whittemore Center in Durham, retiring coach Dick Umile’s final home opener in what will be a 28-year career at his alma mater.

The interest here was an initial look at some of the freshmen, notably defensemen Max Gildon and Benton Maass. First impressions? They’re big and mobile. Gildon, property of the Florida Panthers, is 6-foot, 3 inches and 191 pounds. Maass, a Washington Capitals draft pick, goes 6-2, 195.

Then there were freshmen van Riemsdyk and KelleherBrendan and Charlie — who looked a lot like their older brothers James and Tyler, both former UNH stars. Van Riemsdyk, at 6-3, 200, went to the “dirty areas,” just as James continues to do in the NHL. Kelleher showed a lot of speed and one can envision him someday sniping from the circle on the power plays, just like Tyler did on his way to consideration for the Hobey Baker Award last season.

Tirone held the fort again (32 saves), the defense was solid around him and UNH won 3-1, to make it a weekend sweep of the No. 5 team in the country.

About the only downer? The crowd was announced as 4,186, but the actual attendance was much lighter — a stumper considering the Wildcats had the casual New Hampshire sports fan to themselves that night with no Boston pro teams in action.

So UNH is 2-0 in Hockey East and, with a slow league schedule in the coming weeks, will remain in first place until at least Oct. 21 and probably longer. Up this weekend: a pair of non-leaguers with Colgate on Friday and Saturday nights back at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats will take the ice as the No. 20 team in the rankings, the first time they’ve been ranked since Sept. 29, 2014.

Sports columns College College

New Hampshire Highland Games
Friday, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.,
Saturday, 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.,
Sunday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Full Throttle Weekend
Saturday, 8 a.m.

Portsmouth Fairy House Tour
Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Thomas Rhett
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.