EDITOR'S NOTE: This was written for the March issue of the Big Green Sports News.
What began on Oct. 28 in Thompson Arena, ended March 10 in Lynah Rink with everything in between making up the 2011-12 Dartmouth men's hockey season.
A Game 2 loss in the quarterfinals of the ECAC Hockey Championships to No. 13 Cornell concluded a season of ups and downs for the Big Green.
Just the night before, the two teams battled until nearly the 100th minute of play before a goal from the Big Red's Sean Whitney 17:40 into the second overtime ended the second-longest game in program history.
Senior Jody O'Neill (Nepean, Ontario) stopped 45 shots that night, the most by a Dartmouth goaltender in a postseason game in nine seasons.
However, the 2011-12 campaign
should not be measured or gauged by the final outcome in the postseason or the
team's place in the standings, rather it should be seen as one of the Big
Green's most resilient efforts in recent memory.
Injuries cost the team 67 man-games lost to several players. But, despite the challenges of an ever-changing lineup, Dartmouth managed to finish the season with 13 wins and a berth into the second round of play in the league's postseason tournament.
Against eighth-seeded St. Lawrence in the first round, the Big Green did what no other team in program history was able to do: it went on the road and won a playoff series, taking down the Saints in a two-game sweep, 6-3 and 4-1. St. Lawrence had never been swept at home in the playoffs and had not been on the losing end of a home playoff series in nearly two decades before the Big Green came into Appleton and put on an offensive display to come out victorious.
The road taken to that point included an 11-14-4 overall record and a mark of 8-11-3 against ECAC Hockey foes in the regular season.
Sophomore Eric Robinson (Foxboro, Mass.) finished the season with a team-leading 12 goals, four times as many as he had in his first season in Hanover.
Senior Doug Jones (Marietta, Ga.) and freshman Tyler Sikura (Aurora, Ontario) each had 11 goals and 14 assists to tie for the lead in scoring with 25 points. And despite being one of those players to miss time throughout the season with injury, sophomore Matt Lindblad (Winnetka, Ill.) had a Dartmouth-best 18 assists in just 26 games.
Sikura's 25 points his freshman season rank tied for 11th at Dartmouth for a first-year player.
Even though there will be considerable turnover this offseason as 10 seniors are gone to graduation, the future is incredibly bright for the Big Green.
Dartmouth's freshman class had a conference-best 25 goals at the end of the regular season, a figure that grew in early March as a rookie scored once in all four of the team's playoff games.
The coaching staff has also expressed a great deal of excitement over the talent of the incoming group of players who should continue to help the program develop in the coming seasons.
In the days that followed the conclusion of the 106th season of hockey at Dartmouth, several of the players began their professional careers. O'Neill signed with the Stockton Thunder (ECHL) where he saw classmate Dan Nycholat (Calgary, Alberta) as an opponent with the Las Vegas Wranglers (ECHL) within a week. Connor Goggin (Glen Ellyn. Ill.) signed on to play with the Rockford IceHogs (AHL) following a senior season that saw the defenseman earn All-Ivy Second Team honors. Nick Walsh (Shannonville, Ontario) became the fifth member to sign after the season, doing so with the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL).
And, as always, there is just six months until they get to do it all over again in 2012-13.