Jin Lee / The Dartmouth Staff
"You kind of have to put it out of your mind," head coach Bob Gaudet said on losing the first round bye. "It would have been nice to have it health-wise. But we're at home, not traveling, which is good. We'll get after it."
Going into the weekend, the Big Green knew they would need two solid results to lock up fourth place and a first round bye in the hotly-contested ECAC standings. Building on the energy of a student-heavy home crowd, armed with tennis balls and clamoring to enter the rink despite Safety and Security's attempts to limit entry before the first goal, the Big Green struck first on Friday night behind a first-period goal from co-captain and defenseman Mike Keenan '13. As tennis balls showered the rink, Thompson Arena erupted into applause.
"It was so lively, so fun all night," Regan Haegley '16 said. "It was the epitome of a crowd gone wild. People's nights were based around the game, and normally that's not what it feels like."
Princeton (10-14-5, 8-10-4) struck back only two minutes later, however, and a second goal midway through the second gave the Tigers a lead that the Big Green struggled to negate while facing an excellent Princeton defense.
"They're so defensive, it's like slogging through the mud," Gaudet said.
Slog the Big Green did, though, and after an excellent save by Princeton net-minder Mike Condon with barely three minutes remaining, Jesse Beamish '15 picked up the loose puck behind the net and rounded the frame of the goal before tucking the puck home on the near post.
Keeping in mind an email from athletic director Harry Sheehy requesting that students refrain from throwing tennis balls after the first goal, students relied on applause to show their appreciation of Beamish's tying goal. Moments later, the crowd once again rose to its feet after goaltender Charles Grant '16 made several huge saves to keep the game tied through the end of regulation and an overtime period in which neither team managed to find the back of the net.
Following the disappointing tie, the Big Green welcomed formidable foe Quinnipiac (24-5-5, 17-2-3 ECAC) to Thompson on senior night, where Keenan, Dustin Walsh '13, Mark Goggin '13, Jason Bourgea '13 and Alex Goodship '13 were all honored.
"It was nice to have family here," Keenan said. "My grandmother came up to Dartmouth for the first time, and saw her first game."
Battling hard in front of their fans, the Big Green kept the game close through the first two periods, and despite conceding two early goals threatened to pull back with a goal from Rick Pinkston '15 in the waning moments of the second period.
"You could tell how hard they were playing and how much they wanted it," Haegley said. "Some nights, you can feel it from them. This weekend, they were on."
Failing to find the net despite hard work all over the ice, the Big Green conceded two goals in the third period and ultimately lost the game.
"They're really good, a veteran team that played with a lot of poise and has some snipers," Gaudet said. "We had to play just an outstanding game to compete."
Ending the season with 22 points in ECAC play, the Big Green finished above St. Lawrence on a tie-breaker and earned a first round ECAC tournament matchup with Harvard (9-17-3, 6-14-2 ECAC), seeded last in the ECAC.
The Big Green will host the Crimson in a three-game series next weekend, with the winner advancing in the tournament to play Quinnipiac, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Yale University or Union College, the four teams who received first-round byes.
"It will be a big series," Keenan said. "We've just got to get ourselves ready. I think we'll find top form come next Friday. It's do or die time."