Jin Lee / The Dartmouth Staff
"[St. Lawrence] is a very good team, it was a big game, and we owed them one since they came to Hanover and beat us earlier in the season, so it was nice to win in front of a pretty packed house," captain and defenseman Mike Keenan '13 said. "It was a fun one to play in."
Judging from Friday night, the weekend did not seem to hold a big victory in store. Despite a first period that saw the Big Green pepper Clarkson goalkeeper Greg Lewis, Dartmouth fell behind 1-0 only two minutes into the game and never managed to get back in control of the contest.
"I thought we played alright, to be honest, but we definitely could have played better," assistant captain and forward Matt Lindblad '14 said. "We just didn't give that little extra that we needed to, so when we got down early we were unable to fight back."
Unable to generate much offensive, even on the power play where the Big Green were zero for five on the evening, the result was always going to swing the other way.
"If you can't score, you're not going to win," Keenan said.
Coming off the tough road loss, the Big Green needed to regroup quickly, as another loss would have seen them tumble downward in the tightly contested ECAC standings and risk losing home-ice advantage in the first round of the conference playoff tournament, which begins March 8 with matchups and locations yet to be decided. The Big Green held a meeting in the locker room following the loss to Clarkson, and emphasized the same messages they discussed throughout the season.
"Our coach really emphasizes mental toughness," Lindblad said. "What happens one night is over, it's done with, and you need to come back with a clear mind and a clear conscience. It's a new day. We came into St. Lawrence really focused and prepared."
Sitting in the locker room, forward Tim O'Brien '16 heard the message, and when the Big Green fell behind 1-0 to St. Lawrence, he took matters into his own hands.
Nine minutes into the second period, O'Brien netted an equalizer following an excellent passing play involving Keenan and defenseman Ryan Bullock '16. Not taking his foot off the gas, O'Brien found the back of the net again only minutes later, highlighting the excellent work of his forward line featuring fellow freshmen Nick Bligh '16 and Connor Dempsey '16.
"My line played well, and we were playing well as a team," O'Brien said. "The next goal is always huge when you're tied, especially on the road, so that goal made a big difference for the whole team."
While O'Brien's first multi-goal performance for the Big Green appeared to strongly swing the momentum, another goal netted by Keenan in the third period proved critical as St. Lawrence mounted a late comeback, drawing one goal back behind an effort from junior defenseman Riley Austin.
"Mike's scored some really timely goals, he's having a career year for himself," Lindblad said. "I can't speak enough about Mike as a player and a person on and off the ice."
Following the weekend's results, the Big Green remain tied for fourth with Yale University in the ECAC standings but conceded the Ivy League ice hockey championship to the Bulldogs (14-10-3, 10-9-1 ECAC), who clinched the title with one game left in Ivy play.
Despite the Ivy League championship loss, the all-important ECAC tournament looms large on the horizon, and next weekend's games featuring a famed rivalry matchup with Princeton and a tough contest against ECAC-leading and No. 1 Quinnipiac University will go a long way in deciding the type of road the Big Green will face as they battle for the ECAC title.
"There are so many teams that are so close to being in the top four, so all we can do is win our games," Keenan said. "We can't control anything other than that."