Walsh's Return Has Dartmouth Thinking Big
by Joshua Seguin/CHN Writer
HANOVER, N.H. While accolades have piled up in recent years for fellow Ivy League schools like Cornell and Yale, and even fellow ECAC schools like Union, Dartmouth has been waiting for its big breakthrough. Dartmouth has put numerous players into the NHL in the last 10 years, only to come up short in crunch time.
But now, in a season where they didn't get much love in preseason polls, it might be the Big Green's time.
Accomplishing that could hinge on the health of some big-time forwards. Matt Lindblad and Dustin Walsh missed parts of last season with injuries, and it wasn't the first time for Walsh, a Montreal Canadiens prospect.
But last weekend exemplified why people are getting excited in Hanover, especially a seven-goal outburst Friday against Yale. Lindblad and ECAC Player of the Week Eric Robinson each had two goals, and were key the previous weekend, too. Lindblad combines withi Tyler Sikura and Eric Neiley to form a potent line.
"I think we have a lot of skill on our line," said Dartmouth forward Tyler Sikura. "Eric Neiley adds a goal scoring touch and Matt Linblad is a big playmaker. We are able to work it down-low and wait for opportunities to present themselves. We have really good chemistry and are able to get some openings and put some shots in."
Meanwhile, Robinson has shown a great wrist shot that few players have. The play of the second line compliments the play of the first, and having two lethal lines could pay dividends as we go through the ECAC season.
"Our top two lines I think are two of the top two lines not only in our league but possibly the country," said Dartmouth forward Matt Lindblad. "We all work really well together and have great chemistry. It is a lot of fun right now and we are riding an emotional high."
But the big wild card remains Walsh. He missed 21 games last season, and the first two this season, but returned Friday against Yale. His presence was felt in the lineup but only in a limited role of fourth line right winger.
Walsh has as much talent as any player in the ECAC and his addition to an already potent Big Green lineup is something that can only be positive in the future.
"Tonight felt pretty good," Walsh said. "I kind of started off in a bit of a limited role but it felt good to be back on the ice. Hopefully I will be able to start playing a little more as I gain more of a rhythm in my game."
Said coach Bob Gaudet, "To have Dustin Walsh back is great for us. We didn't want to overdo it with him but I thought he looked really good. It is basically just game conditioning for him. This is very promising for us."
His teammates know how much he means to them.
"Having Walsh back felt awesome, as he adds a whole new dimension of offense for us," said Sikura. "We pulled it out without him last weekend but it’s an added confidence having him in the lineup for us. If you add a guy of that caliber anytime it’s a big thing for a team."
Said Gaudet, "He is a leader in his own right. He is an assistant captain for his reason. When he talks people listen and he plays hard. He is also very skilled so he is an important guy to have back for us. Hopefully we get a lot of hockey out him this season."
Walsh is one piece, but adding him to an already impressive top two lines is something that is going to put ECAC on alert.