If the Dartmouth men’s hockey team reaches the ECAC semifinals later this month, it will have achieved what it could not around this time last year.
The Big Green will have to beat Ivy League rival and No. 14 ranked Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., in a best-of-three quarterfinal series this weekend. Game 1 is tonight at 7 and Game 2 will be played Saturday at the same time. If necessary, Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m.
Dartmouth (13-15-4) is the tournament’s fifth seed while Harvard (17-9-3) is seeded fourth.
The Crimson defeated Dartmouth in the ECAC quarterfinals last year, winning the best-of-three series two games to one, to earn their fourth straight trip to the semis. Like last season, the Big Green advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Saint Lawrence in the first round.
“I think it’s funny we’re playing the same two teams and we know Harvard has an outstanding team,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “They have four elite defensemen and are just a really good team with four lines of players that can play. They have good goaltending from what I’ve seen. It’s a good challenge for us.”
Dartmouth opened its season with a 7-6 overtime win over the Crimson in Hanover on Oct. 27. Harvard defeated the Big Green, 4-1, on Feb. 1 in Boston.
Ivy League Player of the Year and Hobey Baker Award candidate Adam Fox, a junior, and All-Ivy honorable mention Reilly Walsh, a sophomore from Andover, help lead the Crimson’s formidable group of defensemen. Fox ranks fourth in the ECAC in scoring with 40 points (eight goals, 32 assists). Walsh is second on the team in scoring with a career-high 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists).
Walsh has also played a big role for Harvard’s power-play unit, which ranks second in the nation with a 29.4 percentage. The Proctor Academy graduate is tied for 13th in the nation and leads the ECAC with eight power-play goals.
“They have an outstanding power play so discipline is a really big thing,” Gaudet said.
In addition to staying out of the penalty box, Gaudet said the Big Green will need to take care of the puck and create turnovers so they can get odd-man rushes this weekend.
“We want to play our game but we know what they bring too,” Gaudet said.
Harvard owns the second-best scoring offense in the ECAC (3.34 goals per game). Dartmouth ranks ninth in the 12-team conference with 2.59 goals per game but is coming off an 8-0 series-clinching victory over Saint Lawrence on Sunday.
Sunday’s shutout win over the Saints marked Big Green junior goaltender Adrian Clark’s program-record sixth shutout this season. Clark, an All-Ivy First Team selection, owns a 2.25 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in his first season as a starter.
“He’s a quiet, unassuming guy but he’s the backbone of our team,” Gaudet said of Clark. “He had the opportunity to play and he played good hockey in previous years but Adrian has really earned the starting job this year and he’s done an excellent job for us.”
Gaudet said Dartmouth freshman forward Sam Hesler will not play and junior forward Daniel Warpecha will also likely be out this weekend due to injuries.
The Crimson enter the series with a 9-3-2 home record and are 7-0-1 over their last eight home games. Dartmouth owns a 5-7-2 road record.
“We have a lot of alums in the Boston area so hopefully we’ll get some green in the stands,” Gaudet said. “We’ve got to be right on top of things to be successful and we know that.”