CANTON – On one side, Dartmouth played a perfect road hockey game. On the other, St. Lawrence fell apart in the third period as frustrations mounted over turnovers and inconsistent scoring.
Dartmouth was the happier team after handing the Saints a 3-1 ECAC Hockey loss in front of 1,213 fans Friday in Appleton Arena. It snapped St. Lawrence’s three-game win streak and dropped the Saints out of first place in the conference.
“We have to address the lack of offense we’re creating. It comes from hard work and determination,” St. Lawrence associate head coach Mike Hurlbut said. “Until guys decide to do that, we’re going to have a tough time scoring more than one or two goals. If we’re only scoring one or two goals, we’re going to have a tough time winning consistently.”
St. Lawrence (3-6-0 overall, 3-2-0 ECAC) has scored more than three goals only once and averages just two goals per game this season. Its three wins were by 2-0, 3-2 and 1-0.
Offense, as St. Lawrence continues to master the new systems introduced by assistant coach Greg Carvel, has been scarce at best.
“We know we can score goals,” SLU forward Kyle Flanagan said. “Like (Carvel) said, we’re looking for the pretty play and the pretty goal. We have to get more pucks to the net, have better net presence and find a way to get pucks through.”
Dartmouth (4-3-0, 3-2-0) outshot the Saints 28-21, including 8-5 in the disastrous third period.
St. Lawrence trailed only 2-1 heading into the final 20 minutes and had played relatively even with the Big Green.
It had controlled the pace and kept Dartmouth’s dangerous offense in check. Hurlbut said he told his team to come out in the third energized, get the equalizing goal and go from there.
Instead, St. Lawrence struggled to get the puck out of its own end, constantly surrendered bad turnovers and relied on goalie Matt Weninger to keep it close. He stopped 25 shots, most of which came from in close.
The third goal he let in was the result of a neutral zone turnover that pushed Dartmouth’s Tyler Sikura out on a breakaway. He beat a defender and buried a shot over Weninger’s left shoulder for the 3-1 lead.
“(St. Lawrence) has some shooters and they can score from anywhere,” Sikura said. “That goal was huge. Anytime you can get a two-goal lead on the road is nice.”
The Saints still had nearly 12 minutes to find an answer or two. They barely got shots away, while Dartmouth continued sustained zone time until the Saints opted for an extra attacker with 2:27 left in the game.
“The first two periods, we had some stretches where we played really well,” Hurlbut said. “Guys have to move their feet all the time and it’s pretty evident when you don’t move your feet at this level playing a good team. We need guys to realize there’s a very slim margin for error.”
St. Lawrence’s lone goal came from Kyle Essery on a power play at 4:30 of the second period. It tied the game at 1-1.
Dartmouth regained the lead at 13:54 when Eric Neiley made a perfect pass through the slot to Matt Lindblad.
St. Lawrence kept trying to get last year’s ECAC Rookie of the Year finalist Greg Carey open for shots, perhaps forcing it. Carey’s season-long scoring struggles continued. He has just two goals and six assists through the first nine games. As a freshman last season, he led the Saints with 40 points and 23 goals.
“It’s frustrating, but I have to find a way to get pucks through,” Carey said. “We have to learn from this, come back tomorrow, know our systems, stick to our systems, don’t get frustrated and just be men.”