#10 Dartmouth (8-17-4, 7-13-2) vs.
#7 Rensselaer (14-14-6, 8-9-5)
▶ Fri.-Sun., Mar. 7-9, 2014 ▶ 7 PM ▶ Troy, N.Y.
Houston Field House (5,217)
All-Time Series: 32-44-5 (81 Meetings)
Last Meeting: Jan. 24, 2014 - L, 4-2 (Troy)
Streak: 0-3-0 ▶ Postseason vs RPI: 5-7

Radio: WFRD 99.3 (iHeartRadio) / DartmouthSports.com
Play-by-Play: Chris Garrett
Live Stats: DartmouthSports.com
Live Video: America One
2013-14 Digital Press Box

The Dartmouth men’s hockey team begins the 2014 ECAC Hockey Championship Tournament this weekend with a first-round series at Rensselaer. The Big Green are the No. 10 seed and will travel to Troy, N.Y., to take on the seventh-seeded Engineers.

The Green dropped their regular-season finale last Saturday night at No. 16 Colgate, 2-1. With a Brown loss earlier in the afternoon, a win that night in Hamilton would’ve actually given Dartmouth a home playoff series and the No. 8 seed. However, a wild third period resulted in a loss and the current placement in the standings.

A wildly successful final month of the regular season nearly erased the hardships of the majority of the 2013-14 campaign. Since the start of February, the Big Green are 5-2-1, including a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) to finish as one of the hottest teams in the league. Dartmouth had just three wins through January (one in each month since November), but posted five ‘W’s’ in February alone as it enters the league’s postseason.

If the Green and White have been trending up in the last month, RPI has been trending down or standing pat depending on who you ask. The team wrapped-up the regular season with a 5-0 loss at Yale to finish 14-14-6 overall and 8-9-5 in ECAC Hockey play, a far cry from the preseason No. 1 ranking bestowed upon the team in the league’s media poll. Ryan Haggerty proved to be a prolific goal scorer, leading all conference players with 24 tallies, five more than the second-best individual (QU’s Sam Anas). Haggerty also led the team in scoring with 38 points, fourth-best among conference players. After an injury sidelined pre-season all-conference goalie, Jason Kasdorf, junior Scott Diebold stepped up and carried the load in 32 starts with a 13-13-6 record and a 2.45 goals-against average to go along with a .916 save percentage.

RPI swept the Big Green in the season series, taking the Nov. 2 game in Hanover by an overpowering 7-2 score thanks to a Brock Higgs hat trick. It was closer in Troy on Jan. 24 when the Engineers hung on for a 4-2 win despite timely scoring from Geoff Ferguson and Grant Opperman.

Dartmouth has not played any other team in the postseason as much as it has Rensselaer. This weekend will be the fifth all-time best-of-three series between the programs with each winning two. Entering the weekend, the Engineers and Big Green have played 12 postseason contests against one another. Last season’s first-round opponent, Harvard, is the second-most frequent opponent in Dartmouth history, having met up for 10 match-ups in tournament play.

1980 - Quarterfinals (1-0)
No. 3 Dartmouth 8, No. 6 Rensselaer 0

1996 - First Round (0-1)
No. 8 Rensselaer 5, No. 9 Dartmouth 4 (OT)

2000 - Quarterfinals (0-2)    
No. 8 Dartmouth at No. 3 Rensselaer (QF)
Game 1: L, 7-2  
Game 2: L, 3-2 (OT)

2001 - Quarterfinals  (2-0)    
No. 6 Rensselaer at No. 5 Dartmouth (QF)
Game 1:  W, 4-2
Game 2: W, 5-1

2002 - Preliminary Game (0-1)    
No. 5 Rensselaer 2, No. 4 Dartmouth 1^
^ - Lake Placid, N.Y.

2004 - Quarterfinals (2-1)    
No. 5 Rensselaer at No. 4 Dartmouth
Game 1: L, 3-1
Game 2: W, 6-0
Game 3: W, 1-0

2009 - First Round (0-2)    
No. 11 Rensselaer at No. 6 Dartmouth    
Game 1: L, 3-2 (OT)
Game 2: L, 3-1

2014 - First Round
No. 10 Dartmouth at No. 7 Rensselaer

Few players in the nation were as good in the month of February as sophomore goalie Charles Grant. For his play in five starts, Grant was tabbed as the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Month in addition to a conference weekly accolade on Feb. 18.

Grant concluded the month with a 36-save shutout at Cornell’s Lynah Rink. His blanking of the No. 11 Big Red was an historic feat, as he became the first Dartmouth goalie to keep the home team off the scoreboard in Ithaca since Jan. 23, 1960, a span of 54 years between the accomplishments. Only three times has a netminder from the Upper Valley earned a shutout at Cornell with the first occurrence coming back in February 1927.

In five starts in the month of February, Grant posted a .964 save percentage, the best in the nation. His 1.18 goals-against average in February ranked second in the country as he was 4-0-1 and helped the Green to wins at St. Lawrence, Clarkson and Cornell and at home in overtime against Brown, while also backstopping his team to a tie with the defending national champion from Yale.

Dartmouth finished its 10-game Ivy League slate second in the standings with a 5-3-2 record and 12 points. Cornell won the title with an 8-1-1 mark with the lone loss and tie coming at the hands of the Big Green.

Down two in the third period at Colgate, junior Eric Neiley wasted little time in giving his team a chance to come back. Neiley responded just 20 seconds after the Raiders’ second goal with his 13th of the season, knocking home a rebound at the side of the net to infuse the Dartmouth bench with life yet again. His career-high 13 goals and 23 points made him the team’s most consistent player all season and his 10 assists were one shy of another collegiate best and ranked second in the regular season.

If all the credit falls on Charles Grant for his performance in the crease at Lynah, the game winner actually came on the stick of team captain Tyler Sikura. In just his third weekend back after suffering a knee injury, Sikura pounced on a loose puck in the slot after hard work on the rush from linemates Charlie Mosey and Jesse Beamish. The junior and second-line center buried a low shot blocker side on Cornell’s Andy Iles for the only tally of the contest and the second game-winning goal in as many Fridays for the Aurora, Ontario, native. He is the lone Dartmouth skater with multiple winners this season.

In preserving the shutout, Grant needed to make several late-game acrobatic saves. The trio of stops near the 11-minute mark of the third earned him the No. 4 Play of the Week on NCAA.com. Grant needed to go post-to-post to make consecutive pad stops before falling out into the low slot to make a sprawling glove save on a third Big Red forward. Sikura’s OT winner against Brown last week was named the No. 4 play of last week as well.

Dartmouth dropped its opener at home to Harvard, 2-1, but rebounded with 4-1 and 6-3 victories the following days to advance in the postseason for the third straight year. However, the end of the road came in the league quarterfinals at eventual tournament champion Union. The Dutchmen took the first game, 4-1, before eliminating the Big Green, 5-2, in the Saturday night tilt.

It might be a good thing that the Green didn’t earn the eighth seed and a home playoff series given their propensity for strong play on the road this season. Although Dartmouth is averaging 2.38 goals in true road games to 2.69 at home, the defense has been far better away from Thompson Arena this season, allowing 2.23 goals against in 13 games compared to 4.38 in the same number of contests at home. Additionally, the penalty kill is 84.0% on the road, a full 10 percentage points higher than in games played in Hanover.

Grant is a big reason for the road success this year. The sophomore’s .946 save percentage in road and neutral-site games this season is the best in college hockey, narrowly edging out Boston College’s Thatcher Demko and his .945 mark.

Entering this weekend, the senior Class of 2014 is 7-7 in postseason games, the best mark during a three-year run since Dartmouth was 8-6 from 2005-2007.

Former Dartmouth captain and All-American Lee Stempniak was dealt from the Calgary Flames to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday afternoon before the NHL Trade Deadline. He leaves behind David Jones ’08 and TJ Galiardi ’10, but reunites with another former collegiate teammate Tanner Glass ’07 in Pittsburgh. The two played together in Hanover during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 campaigns. In that time, they posted numbers of: 30-51-81 / 69GP (Stempniak) and 11-15-26 / 59GP (Glass).

In other league match-ups: No. 5 Clarkson hosts No. 12 Princeton (Clarkson, 2-0) / No. 6 Yale hosts No. 11 Harvard (Yale, 1-0-1) / No. 8 St. Lawrence hosts No. 9 Brown (Brown, 1-0-1). No. 1 Union, No. 2 Colgate, No. 3 Quinnipiac and No. 4 Cornell all have first-round byes and await the results of this weekend’s games. The teams will be re-seeded with Union hosting the lowest-remaining seed, Colgate the second lowest and so on.

Both Geoff Ferguson and Jack Barre were knocked from games last weekend and did not return to action. Barre did not return to the lineup Saturday after sitting out most of the previous night’s game with Cornell, while Ferguson was hurt in the Colgate contest, causing him to miss the third period. Barre’s absence in the Colgate game meant a Bob Gaudet coached team would not dress a full lineup of 18 skaters for the first time in his 26 years as a bench boss.  In all, Dartmouth has lost 91 man-games to injury in 2013-14.

All ECAC Hockey Championship games are streamed through America One and host institutions’ video portals. Daily passes to view postseason games can be purchased through the event’s website.