Dartmouth Left Frustrated Again
by Chris Hudson/CHN Reporter
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. Another year, another season of frustration for Dartmouth.
The program has gotten to the ECAC semifinals numerous times since Bob Gaudet began resurrecting his alma mater in 1997, but 14 years later, it's still without an ECAC title or an NCAA bid.
Despite throwing 37 shots on net and dominating long stretches of time in Cornell’s zone, the Dartmouth Big Green were unable to solve Big Red netminder Mike Garman, falling 3-0 in the ECAC semifinals Friday. With the loss, Dartmouth’s promising season ends with a bitter aftertaste.
“I don’t know what to say about tonight,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “We just weren’t able to bury it.”-
Dartmouth (18-12-3) had surprised many in the media by performing well above their expectations. Picked to finish 6th in the ECAC in both the coach’s and media’s preseason polls, the Big Green’s steady offensive pressure and outstanding defense gave them a third-place finish.
Gaudet pointed to consistency as the key for Dartmouth’s rise.
“We’ve been a very consistent team from start to finish all season," Gaudet said. "We had six defensemen play all of our games; and we have good depth on our team.”
But Dartmouth’s hopes of making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980 were dashed in the span of 24 seconds. Right after Sean Whitney’s shot from the point gave Cornell (16-14-3) the lead, Armand de Swardt slipped a sliding puck under James Mello’s pads, deflating the healthy Big Green crowd in attendance.
“We didn’t give them many chances, but they found a way to take advantage of them,” Gaudet said.
The two-goal stunner was especially surprising given how well James Mello had played throughout the season. Nominated for both ECAC Player of the Year and the league’s Ken Dryden Award for best goaltender, Mello had been a revelation in net.
The Big Green had plenty of chances throughout the contest, but could not find the back of the net. Garman found the puck through traffic time and again. Every time Dartmouth increased pressure on him, Cornell’s defense answered back, getting necessary clears and limiting the Big Green’s opportunities in front of the net.
“As a defenseman you see the pucks in the crease and guys are diving on it as we’re trying to push it in,” Dartmouth's Evan Stephens said. “We definitely had our chances; there’s definitely no other word than frustrating [to describe the game].”
Gaudet agreed, saying, “They fought really hard and sometimes the bounces don’t go your way. Sometimes you work hard and it’s not going to work out, but the converse of that is if you don’t work hard you’re going to lose.”
Although Dartmouth’s hopes for an NCAA bid are dashed, the team is still preparing to give their all against Colgate in tomorrow’s third-place game, in keeping with that hard- work spirit.
“We worked hard, and we fought hard, it could have gone either way,” said center Matt Lindblad. "We’re definitely disappointed, but we gotta keep our heads up; tomorrow’s a new day.”