Union saw two different Dartmouth hockey teams during the regular season, but the Dutchmen know which Big Green team will show up this weekend in the ECAC Hockey tournament quarterfinals.
The top-seeded Dutchmen (24-6-4) will host the 10th-seeded Big Green (7-13-2) in the best-of-three series Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday at Messa Rink. All start times are 7 p.m.
While Union had a first-round bye, Dartmouth faced Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the best-of-three first-round series. The Big Green, playing on the road, lost Game 1 of the series, but battled back and erased a 4-2 Engineers’ lead in Game 3 by scoring three third-period goals to win, 5-4, and advance to the quarterfinals.
“They keep working,” Union senior defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie said. “Regardless of the score, they keep playing. Down, 4-2, in Game 3 of an elimination game is tough. I guess they played pretty desperate, and scoring three goals in the third period when the other team is probably trying to play solid ‘D’, that’s tough to do.”
The Big Green struggled for most of the season, compiling a 2-11-2 through 15 games, and they entered February with a 3-15-3 record after an 8-1 loss to Quinnipiac on Jan. 31.
They lost senior forward Eric Robinson, their fourth-leading scorer last year, to a season-ending injury after only two games, and junior forward Tyler Sikura suffered a leg injury Dec. 30 against Northeastern and was out a month.
But Dartmouth had a strong February, going 5-1-1.
“I’m not surprised,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “I thought Dartmouth had a really good last part of the season. That even takes into account when we played them in December. I thought they were making some strides. They got some guys back.
“They’ve always played with heart. So, anything can happen here.”
Union rolled to an easy 7-2 victory in the ECACH opener for both teams Nov. 1 in Hanover, N.H. In that contest, the Dutchmen had a 5-0 lead after two periods, and outshot the Big Green, 31-17.
But it was the Dutchmen’s 3-2 win Dec. 11 at Messa that was more typical of the Big Green. Dartmouth played a tight-checking game, frustrating Union. The Big Green outshot the Dutchmen, 39-30, and took a 2-1 lead into the third period. The Dutchmen rallied for a 3-2 victory on goals by Nick Cruice and Michael Pontarelli.
“They seemed to get out of the gate wrong, but they have, obviously, corrected their problems,” Bodie said. “They’re a good team over there. What we saw from them at Messa is what we expected them to become this season. They’re a good squad, and we won’t take them lightly at all.”
Union remains third in the USCHO.com/NCAA hockey top-20 poll. The Dutchmen, who have the nation’s current longest unbeaten streak at nine games (8-0-1), got one first-place vote and earned 899 points, 13 less than last week.