Third-period onslaught ends Big Green’s playoff run

Dartmouth College goaltender Cooper Black watches Cornell's Sullivan Mack, right, approach his net with the puck during the ECAC teams' playoff semifinal at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Mack, a former Kimball Union Academy player, and his Big Red won, 6-3. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Dartmouth College goaltender Cooper Black watches Cornell's Sullivan Mack, right, approach his net with the puck during the ECAC teams' playoff semifinal at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Mack, a former Kimball Union Academy player, and his Big Red won, 6-3. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's Trym Lokkeberg (22) wins a faceoff against Cornell's Tyler Catalano during the ECAC teams' playoff semifinal on March 23, 2024, at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Cornell won, 6-3. Dartmouth's Nate Morgan (68) and Luke Devlin jockey for position. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Dartmouth College's Trym Lokkeberg (22) wins a faceoff against Cornell's Tyler Catalano during the ECAC teams' playoff semifinal on March 23, 2024, at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Cornell won, 6-3. Dartmouth's Nate Morgan (68) and Luke Devlin jockey for position. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's John Fusco (3) watches his second-period shot sail over Cornell goaltender Ian Shane to give the Big Green a 3-1 lead in the ECAC teams' playoff semifinal on March 22, 2024, at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Cornell won, 6-3. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Dartmouth College's John Fusco (3) watches his second-period shot sail over Cornell goaltender Ian Shane to give the Big Green a 3-1 lead in the ECAC teams' playoff semifinal on March 22, 2024, at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Cornell won, 6-3. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's Steven Townley, a Woodstock High graduate, and Cornell's Gabriel Seger face off during the ECAC teams' March 22, 2024, playoff semifinal at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Cornell won, 6-3. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Dartmouth College's Steven Townley, a Woodstock High graduate, and Cornell's Gabriel Seger face off during the ECAC teams' March 22, 2024, playoff semifinal at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Cornell won, 6-3. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Rob Rasmussen—

Dartmouth College's Matt Fusco, left, escapes Cornell's Luke Devlin during the ECAC teams' March 22, 2024 playoff semifinal game at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Cornell won, 6-3. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Dartmouth College's Matt Fusco, left, escapes Cornell's Luke Devlin during the ECAC teams' March 22, 2024 playoff semifinal game at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. Cornell won, 6-3. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Rob Rasmussen—© Rob Rasmussen

Dartmouth College goaltender Cooper Black looks skyward as he prepares to put his helmet back on during a media timeout of the ECAC playoff semifinals against Cornell on March 22, 2024. Backup Roan Clarke is at bottom. Cornell won, 6-3, at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Dartmouth College goaltender Cooper Black looks skyward as he prepares to put his helmet back on during a media timeout of the ECAC playoff semifinals against Cornell on March 22, 2024. Backup Roan Clarke is at bottom. Cornell won, 6-3, at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-24-2024 11:35 AM

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — “Sweet Caroline” played Friday between the second and third periods of the Dartmouth College men’s hockey team’s ECAC tournament semifinal against Cornell. Many in the seats waved illuminated phones to the iconic Neil Diamond song in a dimmed Herb Brooks Arena, creating a miniature light show.

“Good times never seemed so good,” warbled Diamond as the scoreboard displayed a two-goal lead for the Big Green. “So good, so good, so good.”

By the end of the game, however, a different Canadian songwriter’s creation sprang to mind: Neil Young’s 1971 tune “Helpless.”

That’s how fourth-seeded Dartmouth must have felt, watching a 3-1 advantage turn into a 6-3 loss to the second-seeded Big Red. Two of those tallies came after Big Green coach Reid Cashman pulled goaltender Cooper Black for an extra skater, but there was no doubting the force of Cornell’s comeback.

“They tilted the ice, and we couldn’t tilt it back,” said Sean Chisholm, who gave Dartmouth a 1-0 lead five minutes before the first intermission in front of a crowd announced at 4,015 in the 7,700-seat arena. “It sucks to have the season over, but we have to put it behind us and focus on next year.”

If the Big Green shows anywhere near as much improvement in the coming year as it has in the one past, it will be hoisting its first ECAC tourney title trophy next March. Dartmouth won only five games during the 2022-23 campaign, Cashman’s third year on the job, before finishing 13-10-9 this winter and reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2016.

“I feel pride and gratitude, because you don’t always have a group that goes all in,” said Cashman, whose team had a nine-game unbeaten string snapped. “You say cliches and you put them on the wall, but this group got it and allowed us to challenge them.

“They responded and grew, so we took a step forward.”

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Chisolm scored with a one-time shot over Cornell goaltender Ian Shane from the inner half of the right circle after taking Braden Dorfman’s backhand pass from below the arc.

Cornell equalized four minutes after the break when Ondrej Psenicka powered around 6-foot-3 defenseman Eric Charpentier in the left circle and shot between Black’s legs from a sharp angle. Dartmouth answered less than a minute later, defenseman John Fusco wristing a shot over Shane’s glove from the blue line and past a screen.

Fusco scored again midway through the second stanza, pinching down from the right point and using another wrist shot after Dorfman found him with a feed from near the opposite post. That power-play goal put the Big Green up, 3-1, a lead it took into the third period.

“Give credit to Dartmouth. How many shots did they block?” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer, before he’d seen a stat sheet indicating 14 such plays. “We were getting frustrated.”

The seed of Dartmouth’s undoing, however, was planted five seconds before the break when fourth-line left wing Oscar Vuorio, a Finnish native with five points in 29 games, was whistled for boarding. It was the Big Green’s only penalty of the game, but it handed Cornell a power play on clean ice to start the third period.

“We had our season on the line,” said Cornell’s Ryan Walsh. “We played the third period for the guys who won’t be coming back after this season.”

Said ESPN+ commentator Pierre McGuire as the third period began: “Dartmouth’s done a masterful job so far, and it’s going to take a lot for Cornell to get back into this game.”

The collapse began in earnest when Dalton Bancroft scored just 43 seconds into the final stanza.

Two Big Green defenders got caught on the left wall near their blue line while trying to deny an opponent entry, but the puck reached Gabriel Seger in the high slot. Seger’s pass into the right circle was converted into a wrist-shot goal past Black’s glove and inside the near post.

Cornell forged a 3-3 tie with 8 minutes, 32 seconds to play after Dartmouth freshman Charpentier failed to clear his zone up the left boards. Seger again earned the assist, feeding from low on the wall to the slot, where Kyle Penney buried a one-time shot through Black’s legs.

“We’re a physical team of good skaters, and we did a good job of wearing them down late,” Bancroft said.

The Big Red struck for the winning tally a minute later, the sequence starting with a Psenicka shot off the rush that zipped past the left post, bounced off the end boards and stayed behind the cage.

The Czech followed his shot and fed the puck back out front. Black, on his knees and discombobulated, couldn’t stop Walsh’s close-range shot through his legs.

“I thought their forecheck became a major factor in the third period,” said Cashman, identifying a historically strong aspect of Cornell’s game. “We struggled to get out of our zone, and now we’re defending tired and our zone becomes a little bit loose.

“They got pucks to dangerous areas and they finished.”

Cashman pulled Black for an extra skater with 4:25 to play, long before many coaches would make such a move. The sophomore netminder, who now must decide whether to remain at Dartmouth or sign a professional contract, finished with 27 saves.

Cashman later pointed out that Cornell had taken an icing, meaning its tired skaters had to stay on the ice by rule. That fatigue and Dartmouth’s man advantage earned the Big Green significant offensive-zone time and several good scoring chances, but the Big Red scored twice into an empty net.

“I’m incredibly proud of 25 young men who hadn’t lost since Feb. 2,” said an emotional Cashman, whose team entered the weekend 11-0-1 this season in games it had led after two periods. “At that point, we were looking at 10th place (in the 12-team conference standings).

“We have to keep recruiting the right kind of people and we’ve got to love our guys here and give them time to take a breath, because there’s going to be scar tissue there.”

Chisolm recalled how he and his teammates committed to 6:30 a.m. strength and conditioning workouts five days a week last spring and summer.

“It was a grind, but it carried into the fall and our guys were the only people who believed in our team,” said the junior of a squad picked to finish 11th in preseason polls. “We just have to have another good spring and get excited for next year.”

Notes: Dartmouth enjoyed the return from injury of first-line right wing Nikita Nikora and third-pair defenseman Ian Pierce for Friday’s contest. … Cornell junior wing Sullivan Mack, an Alaska native and an impact player for the Big Red, previously skated for Meriden’s Kimball Union Academy. … Cornell’s pep band, including an all-important sousaphone player, arrived by chartered bus an hour before the game. Dartmouth did not bring a band. … Former Hanover High baseball player Ryan Finley, now a Dartmouth equipment manager, usually works with the Big Green women’s hockey team but was with the men’s team for Friday’s game. … Reflecting the changing nature of hockey development, the four ECAC teams in Lake Placid included no Minnesota products but three from California and two from Tennessee. … The only other town named Lake Placid in the U.S. is in Florida.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.