March 16, 2007 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Feeling Green: Anatomy of a Heartbreaker

by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer

ALBANY, N.Y. — It's a cliche to call a gripping back-and-forth hockey game a "rollercoaster ride," but there isn't a rollercoaster that's large, exhilarating, or emotionally draining enough to describe what the Dartmouth Big Green experienced on Friday evening in their ECAC semifinal game against Clarkson.

On three separate occasions, a Big Green goal was answered by a Clarkson score within only 90 seconds. And it was the third of those occasions that gave Clarkson a dramatic 5-4 victory and sent the Golden Knights onto Saturday evening's championship game against Quinnipiac.

But the game-winning goal — by Steve Zalewski with 41 seconds remaining — was merely the culmination of a series of wild events in the third period. Down 3-1 heading into the third, and down 4-2 with 15 minutes to go, the Big Green could have rolled over and let the Golden Knights cruise to its championship game berth.

A goal by freshman T.J. Galiardi pulled the Green to within one, but still, with just over three minutes remaining in the third period, Clarkson led by a goal.

At that point, Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet called a strategic timeout.

"What we wanted to do was take a little bit of a breather and maybe set up a faceoff play, which actually didn't work out," explained Gaudet. "We gave our guys a breather and were able to come back with [David] Jones, [Nick] Johnson and [Tanner] Glass and get an extra shift out of those guys, where we wouldn't have if we hadn't taken it with three minutes left. It seemed like the best thing to do with an offensive zone faceoff."

The faceoff play didn't work, but on the next shift, with only 1:40 remaining, J.T. Wyman took a sharp angle shot from the same right faceoff circle, beating Clarkson goaltender David Leggio and tying the game at 4-4.

The third period comeback seemed to be poetic justice for the Big Green, considering that, in late January at Cheel Arena, Clarkson overcame a 4-2 third period deficit to escape with a 4-4 tie.

And while a tie in Friday's semifinal game wasn't a possibility, the game certainly appeared to be headed to overtime.

Said Gaudet of his team's mood on the bench following Wyman's goal, "We had a pretty good even keel. Obviously, we were excited to tie the game, and obviously the guys are excited. But we were ready to play the next shift."

It was that next shift that's going to take a while for the Big Green to forget about. Dartmouth almost won the game after Jones threw the puck to the crease, and it lay on the ice next to a sprawling Leggio, agonizingly close to the goal line.

"We get a play, we go around, and David [Jones] is in," described Gaudet. "He's a pretty good sniper, and he takes a shot. The puck is laying there, and all of a sudden, the puck is going the other way."

The puck was on the stick of Zalewski in what became a partial 2-on-1. Electing to shoot, the junior forward fired the puck over the shoulder of Dartmouth goaltender Mike Devine, setting off pandemonium on the Clarkson bench and among Golden Knights fans.

And, on the other side, utter heartbreak on the Dartmouth bench.

Said Gaudet, "It's the breaks of the games. David Jones goes around the bend and has a great opportunity to score. And all of a sudden, the puck's the other way. That's the way it goes.

"But going into the third period down 3-1 and to find a way to tie the game in the final moments. ... I'm proud of our guys."

Added senior captain Tanner Glass, "We were confident all along. We were playing really well, pouring it on the whole third period. I just feel like, if that puck was in with two minutes left [instead], we could have been able to tie it up again."

Now, Dartmouth finds itself in the all-too-familiar consolation game, but just as St. Lawrence is playing for an NCAA tournament berth, the Big Green could also secure an NCAA at-large bid with a win over the Saints.

"The guys have been through a lot together, and they want to get after it tomorrow," said Gaudet. "It's not easy, but it's the way it is."

As is always the case with consolation games, it's certainly also about pride and rebounding from adversity. The leaders on this Dartmouth team, from senior Tanner Glass to freshman T.J. Galiardi, seem to agree.

"We get to put the jersey on again tomorrow," said Glass. "We're proud of our college, we're proud of our team. Tomorrow's another day."

Added Galiardi, "We know we're not just playing for ourselves, but we're playing for the guys who have worn the jersey before us. That's what we'll be thinking about tomorrow."

As for Gaudet's thoughts on failing once again to reach the ECAC title game?

"It's disappointing because we're knocking on the door," said the veteran coach. "Tonight I thought we played really well. We just have to come back. For our college and for the guys on the team, we want to get to the championship game and give ourselves a chance at a championship and then go on to the NCAAs.

"If we have the opportunity tomorrow to battle for the NCAA tournament, that's great. If we don't, we just have to take our medicine and go out and play with a lot of pride."

Either way, it's another year at the ECAC Final Four and another heartbreaker for Gaudet and his team. But a win on Saturday afternoon could send Dartmouth to the NCAA tournament and could let them leave Albany feeling a little less green.

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