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Rensselaer, Dartmouth ready for national spotlight

by Michael Blinn
Dartmouth (6-5-2) at Rennselaer (3-15-0)
Friday, 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network


Dartmouth: The Big Green took second place at the Ivy Shootout to begin the season, losing a tight game to ECAC league-power Yale. The momentum carried into wins over Princeton and Quinnipiac, though it's been a mixed bag for Dartmouth since: losses to league foes Colgate, Cornell and Clarkson, and a win over St. Lawrence left the team with a 3-4-1 record in November, though the return of several key players led to a strong non-conference showing to close out 2012. They went into the holiday break on a high note, topping Sacred Heart, and then getting to the final of the Ledyard National Bank Classic by edging Holy Cross before dropping a shootout to St. Lawrence in the championship game, leaving them with a 2-0-1 record in December. Should the good times continue to roll, Dartmouth is poised for a big second half.

NCAA Hockey on NBC Sports Network

  • Minn-Duluth @ Neb-Omaha, Jan. 13, 7:30 PM
  • Michigan @ Notre Dame, Jan. 20, 7:00 PM
  • Yale @ Harvard, Jan 27, 7:30 PM
  • Cornell @ RPI, Feb. 3, 7:00 PM
  • Boston College @ Vermont, Feb. 10, 7:00 PM
  • Minnesota @ Denver, Feb. 10, 7:30 PM
  • Dartmouth @ Yale, Feb. 17, 7:00 PM
  • Boston U @ Vermont, Feb. 24, 7:00 PM
  • North Dakota @ Denver, Feb. 24, 7:30 PM
  • Denver @ Neb-Omaha, Mar. 2, 7:30 PM
Rennselaer: It's been a rough year for the Engineers; in the midst of rebuilding, the team showed promise with an opening weekend split against Minnesota State, but it's been a struggle ever since. RPI lost eight straight following the win over the Mavericks before righting the ship with wins in two of their next three against Brown and RIT, though December was no better for the team, as they ended the calendar year winless in five games on the month, including losses to Lowell and Army at the UConn Hockey Classic. The new year brings hope to a team that has 14 freshmen and sophomores -- perhaps early adversity and experience will see the Engineers jell and finish strong in a competitive ECAC.


When the offense is clicking, Dartmouth turns into the Big Green Machine: they've lost just once in the nine games where they've scored three goals or more. Leading the charge is freshman Tyler Sikura (7 goals, 10 points), who has emerged as the team's most consistent scorer this season. After an impressive first year, sophomore Matt Lindblad (1 goal, 9 points) struggled early due to a hip injury, but he's found the yin to his yang in sophomore Eric Robinson (6 goals, 10 points) -- Robinson has 4 goals in his last five games, all assisted by Lindblad. A major boon to the Dartmouth efforts is the return of junior Dustin Walsh (3 goals, 6 points), who missed most of November and early December with a leg injury. Three different goalies have seen time in the Dartmouth net this season; sophomore Cab Morris (2-0-1, 1.62 goals-against average, .938 save percentage) has wrestled the last three starts from incumbent senior James Mello (3-4-1, 2.99 GAA, .898 save percentage), though senior Jody O'Neill (1-1-0, 2.02 GAA, .922 save percentage) has shown himself capable of leading the team during his tenure with the Big Green.

The 2011-12 Engineers knew there would be big holes from the previous season's squad; one of the biggest was created by the loss of Hobey Baker candidate Chase Polacek, who took his explosive brand of speed and offense the way of graduation. To fill the void, Rennselaer has gone with an offense-by-committee, with junior defenseman Nick Bailen (3 goals, 9 points) leading the way, while the young trio of sophomore Brock Higgs (1 goal, 9 points) and freshmen Ryan Haggerty (4 goals, 7 points) and Jacob Laliberte (2 goals, 7 points) have found chemistry that coach Seth Appert would love to see them build upon. In net, Allen York's stellar sophomore season earned him a contract with the New Jersey Devils organization, and junior Bryce Merriam has seized the opportunity and the crease; his 2.68 GAA and .903 save percentage speak more to his play than a 2-11-0 record on the season.

Leaders: Dartmouth Big Green Leaders: RPI Engineers
Tyler Sikura - 13GP-7G-3A-10PTS Nick Bailen - 18GP-3G-6A-9PTS
Eric Robinson - 13GP-6G-4A-10PTS Brock Higgs - 13GP-1G-8A-9PTS
Doug Jones - 11GP-4G-5A-9PTS Ryan Haggerty - 15GP-4G-3A-7PTS
Dustin Walsh - 7GP-3G-6A-9PTS Jacob Laliberte - 15GP-2G-5A-7PTS
James Mello - 3-4-1, 2.99 GAA, .898 SV% Zach Schroeder - 18GP-2G-2A-4PTS
Cab Morris - 2-0-1, 1.62 GAA, .938 SV% Bryce Merriam - 2-11-0, 2.68 GAA, .903 GAA

Dartmouth Big Green RPI Engineers
Coach: Bob Gaudet (299-338-81) Coach: Seth Appert (66-98-23)
6-5-2 (3-3-1 ECAC) 3-15-0, (1-6-0 ECAC)
PP: 9.3% (56th)  /PK: 78.6% (43rd) PP: 11.6% (53rd) / PK: 85.4% (12th)
Drafted: Goggin (BOS), Mattila (NYI),  Walsh (MTL) Drafted: Mike Bergin (DAL), Pat Koudys (WSH)
'12 Draft Watch List: Brandon McNally (C) '12 Draft Watch List: Ryan Haggerty (C)

"He's a cut above. His offensive play, it's almost like you have a sense that the puck's going in the net five seconds, sometimes 10 seconds before it goes in, because there's just an air about him. The puck follows him around and he makes smart plays with it. He's really slippery for a big guy, very elusive and much, much stronger than he has been. His speed has increased, his strength has increased, and his confidence has increased because of those areas, and he's just a much more mature hockey player." -- Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet to on Big Green forward and Canadiens prospect Dustin Walsh

"Obviously, we're struggling to get goals right now. If anybody scores right now, everybody's jumping up and down as soon as you see the red light."  -- RPI forward and 2012 NHL Draft prospect Ryan Haggerty after breaking the Engineers scoreless streak of 201:33 on Nov. 13 in a 1-0 win over Brown


Dartmouth's win over Holy Cross on Dec. 30, was the program's 1,000th victory. ... NHL connections: RPI's Zach Schroeder is the brother of Canucks' prospect Jordan Schroeder, teammate Matt Tinordi is the son of former NHLer Mark Tinordi and brother of Canadiens' prospect Jarred, while former NHL defenseman Jaroslav Modry is a volunteer assistant coach with the Engineers. Dartmouth's Nick Lovejoy is the younger brother of Penguins' defenseman Ben Lovejoy, and Dan Nycholat's brother, Lawrence Nycholat, plays for the AHL's Hershey Bears. ... Dustin Walsh ranks 20th in the nation with 1.28 points per game. ... Dartmouth's Kyle Schussler was the 1999 Canadian bantam speed skating champion.

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