This is a big week for both the Crimson and Dartmouth hockey squads, as each has two key Ivy League and ECAC Division I contests back to back in the home stretch. The Big Green comes to Cambridge tonight to take on Harvard and then travel to Penn for a game Saturday. The Crimson journeys to Ithaca Saturday to battle Ivy nemesis Cornell.
For the Big Green, tonight's game at Watson will be particularly crucial. A loss would put them in serious trouble in the Ivy League where they stand third behind Cornell and Harvard, having played two more games than the Crimson and one more than the Big Red.
It would also virtually knock them out of the wild Division I scramble for a playoff spot. Harvard currently leads the division with a 9-2 record, while Dartmouth has a mediocre 7-7 mark. The only consolation for the Big Green is that all but the top three teams have at least seven losses, and they could sneak in through the back door, that is if they win tonight.
Harvard has other ideas. While a loss tonight would certainly hurt the Crimson's standings in the East, it would do worse damage in the League. Harvard holds a 5-1 Ivy record and stands second behind the Big Red, who sport a 6-1 league leading mark.
Ironically, it was Dartmouth who kept Harvard in the Ivy race, by beating Cornell last week, but they could easily knock them out of it tonight. Cornell, seeking an unprecedented eighth straight Ivy crown, handed Harvard its only league loss earlier in the season. The Crimson needs to go into the Cornell game with a win against the Big Green, or the most they could reasonably expect is a share of the title.
Dartmouth's big guns for tonight's contest will be Fred Riggall, who got the hat trick in Harvard's 7-5 win at Hanover in January, Bill Berry and Bob Nuffert, who didn't play in the previous game because of injuries. Nuffert will add some extra scoring punch to this already powerful first line.
But the man who will make or break the game for the Big Green is goalie Peter Proulx. Proulx is one of the best in the East on a good night and is capable of stopping Harvard cold. Last year he played terribly in Harvard's game at Hanover, but starred in the Big Green's upset at Watson, earning him Ivy player of the week honors.
The Crimson could be really hurting in this evening's contest, as both Jim Thomas and Bob Goodenow sustained injuries in Monday's Beanpot consolation game. Thomas was hurt while jamming along the boards with Husky henchman Duncan Finch, and is listed as a doubtful starter. Linemate Goodenow injured his thumb, and is also listed as doubtful.
The injuries will hurt the Crimson power play, which has Thomas and Goodenow on the points. Dartmouth coach Grant Standbrook is worrying about the Harvard power play most of all, yesterday calling it "phenomenal" and "awesome." If both players are out tonight, his fears may never materialize.
Dartmouth has been spotty all year, winning some of the big ones and losing to weak competition. They lost to Yale last Saturday, with the Elis scoring five goals on only 24 shots and setting a New England record for the quickest goal, at 0:05 of the first period.
However, the Big Green is deceptive. They are capable of knocking off the Crimson tonight and they know it. They're also aware of how much this game means to them and they'll be psyched for a win. It could go either way.