Century-Old Rivary Builds With Recent Postseason Battles
Editor's Note: This article was written and used for the Dartmouth/Harvard ECAC Hockey Championship First Round Game Program this past weekend at Thompson Arena.
The Big Green battled back from a 1-0 series deficit after Game 1 to win the final two contests of the weekend and advance with a 2-1 series victory. It marked the second time in three seasons that the Crimson won the first game of a postseason match-up with the Green, only to see Dartmouth take Games 2 and 3 on home ice to move on.
It's an historic rivalry in the sense that these two programs have played each other nearly 200 times since their formations more than a century ago.
Coming into the weekend, Harvard and Dartmouth have met on 194 previous occasions. Only Yale's 206 all-time meetings with the Big Green rank higher than that of the Crimson's total.
Some might point to Harvard's 124-59-11 advantage in those games as a fact that would negate any true rivalry. Others might claim that the Crimson only care about the Bulldogs.
Make no mistake, there is a rivalry between the two.
But it may not be based in traditional postseason ties.
Despite the more than 200 years of hockey between them and five decades playing together in ECAC Hockey as two of the league's founding members, it wasn't until the 2000-01 season that the Big Green and Crimson met in the playoffs.
That first meeting had little to do with deciding a conference champion that season either as both teams were knocked out in the semifinals and were relegated to the third-place game that weekend in Lake Placid.
Mike Murray '03 capitalized on a Dominic Moore roughing call with a power-play goal just nine seconds into the advantage to tie that game up with a little more than eight and a half minutes to go in regulation. The then-sophomore's goal would hold up through the horn signaling the end of the third period tied, 2-2.
That score would last just 1:32 into the extra frame when Moore redeemed himself, scoring the overtime winner by beating Dartmouth netminder Nick Boucher '03 on Harvard's first shot of the extra session.
Murray would once again prove valuable to the Big Green when the teams met two years later in the league semifinals played in Albany. After falling behind 4-1 and replacing Boucher in favor of Dan Yacey '05, a goaltender that appeared in just five games all season, head coach Bob Gaudet's squad responded with two goals midway through the third period.
Hugh Jessiman '06 netted his 22nd of the season (he would finish with a Dartmouth freshman record of 23 in 2002-03) at the 13:26 mark with assists from Big Green standouts Lee Stempniak '05 and Mike Ouellette '06. But it was Murray's penalty shot goal with just 3:51 left that brought the crowd to its feet as the Green and White pulled to within one, 4-3.
After getting taken down on a break by Harvard's Kenny Smith, Murray beat goalie Dov Grumet-Morris on the most exciting play in hockey.
However, a Crimson empty-net goal with just five seconds left ended Dartmouth's hopes of an ECAC title that season.
The following year saw the sixth-seeded Crimson once again end the fourth-seeded Big Green's season with a one-goal win in Albany. With the score tied at 1-1 through 40 minutes, thanks in large part to Stempniak's marker at 19:18.2 of the middle period, Harvard wasted little time at the start of the third.
A Brendan Bernakevitch goal just 33 seconds into the final period was the game-winner, again ending a promising Dartmouth season.
Perhaps the most crushing blow delivered in the postseason by any opponent came when Harvard shocked the college hockey community with a 10-1 win over the top-seeded and regular-season champs from Hanover in 2006. A Big Green team that had six players who would go on to the NHL and finished that winter with a 14-6-2 ECAC Hockey mark was upset by a rival that seemingly has had their number in postseason play.
If this all seems a bit gloomy, it was. That is, until two years ago.
That one weekend in March 2011 was when the fortunes of a team changed with one shot off the tape of Andrew Owsiak '11.
Having lost the opening game of the quarterfinal series with the 10th-seeded Crimson, No. 3 Dartmouth needed to respond in game two or watch another strong campaign end at the hands of its most frustrating foe.
Senior Adam Estoclet '11 scored his 15th of the season nearly 14 minutes into the opening period only to see Harvard's Michael Biega bury a power-play goal to tie the game midway through the third to force overtime.
The Dartmouth forward crossed the blueline and wound up for a slap shot that knuckled its way on goal, handcuffing netminder Ryan Carroll to find room upstairs for the game-winner.
The comeback was complete the following night as Matt Lindblad '14 scored two of the Big Green's three third-period goals for the 4-3 victory on home ice, advancing to the league semifinals for the first time in four years.
Owsiak's goal that, by all accounts, fluttered into the net that night in Hanover changed the luck of Dartmouth against its southern neighbor. No longer was there a burden on the program's back stemming from previous tournament missteps, but a tangible moment Big Green fans can point to as the time they turned the tables on the Crimson.
There is now one moment when fans can claim something historic happened.
Something must have happened that night because Harvard has not defeated Dartmouth since.
By Pat Salvas