by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
ALBANY, N.Y. Mike Ouellette, Eric Przepiorka, Jarrett Sampson, Garret Overlock, and Sean Offers comprise this year's graduating senior class for Dartmouth, and on Saturday, they closed out their careers in style, leading their team to a 3-2 win over Colgate in the consolation game of the ECAC Championships.
However, this is no ordinary graduating class for the Big Green. This group of five players, under the direction of coach Bob Gaudet, led Dartmouth to its first-ever ECAC regular season title this season. The year before this fivesome arrived in Hanover for their freshman seasons, the Big Green was at best a .500 team in the league. But with the help of the class of 2006, Dartmouth has advanced to the ECAC Final Four three of the last four seasons. Two of those years, the Big Green reached the 20-win plateau.
And Ouellete, Overlock, and company are the winningest class in the history of the Dartmouth hockey program, which this year celebrated its 100th year of existence. Saturday's win over Colgate represented their 73rd win while wearing the Big Green uniform.
"I'm really proud of them," said Gaudet. "It's such a tough feeling for me because it seems like yesterday when the guys came here. We took over a program a number of years ago that had been down, and these guys were such a big part in bringing it back - the fan base, the energy around the program, the enthusiasm."
"It's hard to say in so many words," added an emotional Ouellette when asked to comment on the end of his college career. "It's been a long journey, and it's been very special. No regrets. I can't thank Coach Gaudet and the other coaches for bringing me here and giving me all the opportunities in the world to succeed, to get a great education, to play some top-level hockey, and meet some incredible players and friends. It's meant the world to me."
Ouellette, the captain of the Big Green, was named the Ivy League player of the year, the ECAC's Best Defensive Forward, and was also named to the all-ECAC first team. And, as a player at an Ivy League school, he's pretty smart as well. Ouellette was the valedictorian of his senior class.
Said Gaudet, "I'm really so pleased at how they've developed, hockey-wise, but as people too. They're great guys. As a coach, in four years, you watch them grow up. At some point, it's not a coach/player relationship. It's a friendship. You look at a guy like Mike Ouellette. He's a guy I admire so much. He's been an unbelievable leader. But each [of the seniors] has their own special story."
Overlock is one of the seniors with a particularly special story. Since he was only seven years old, Overlock has had Type I diabetes and administers insulin injections to himself over a half dozen times a day.
Clearly, the members of Dartmouth's class of 2006 have been examples of leadership and character both on the ice and off, and Gaudet commented on how much they have impacted the younger members of the Big Green.
"Part of today is passing the torch," said Gaudet, a Dartmouth alumnus himself. "A guy like Grant Lewis has made a huge step because he's watched Mike Ouellette and this group work. It's a sad time in a way, but today was good because we got a W, and these guys felt good about it. [These seniors] pass along to the other guys is work ethic, character, and the intensity to battle back."