The Ledyard Bank Classic is a staple of college hockey’s tournament season. 29 of the last 39 seasons have seen teams travel to Hanover, New Hampshire to stay at the Hanover Inn and play at Thompson Arena.
This year’s edition featured a new competitor, Minnesota Duluth, skating against hosting Dartmouth for the final game. Duluth entered Saturday favored after a run to the National Championship last season and a 5-0 domination of Yale on Friday.
The Big Green came in looking to continue their winning streak over ranked teams. The last two games saw Dartmouth beat Denver and New Hampshire. A third straight win would give Dartmouth a trophy and a surge of confidence before the meat of the ECAC schedule.
The game opened with a furious first frame. The teams combined for 31 shots in the period even more chances and hits. Dartmouth took the early lead on Charley Michalowski’s rebound goal 24 seconds into the game. The Big Green retained momentum for much of the period, peppering Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard with 17 total shots. The sophomore from Cohasset, Minnesota, held his ground and kept Dartmouth off the board the rest of the frame. His offense started picking up pace with 14 total shots.
Devin Buffalo stopped almost every shot in the frame. But with 28 seconds left, Billy Exell tied the game. Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet argued it should have been waved off for goalie interference, but the call stood. The period was mostly dominated by Dartmouth but tied at the intermission.
Duluth got the early jump in the second period, landing the first five shots. Dartmouth goalie Devin Buffalo made 12 of his 39 saves in the frame, including a save of the year candidate for Dartmouth. He could not stop every shot, as Peter Krieger got to a rebound and gave Duluth a 2-1 lead.
Duluth did not hold the lead for long. Dartmouth’s third line threw a flurry of shots at Shepard and Shane Sellar potted the equalizer near the halfway point of the period. The score stayed knotted 2-2 into the second intermission.
The third period was a track meet. There were multiple stretches of three or four consecutive minutes of skating with no stoppages. Each team had the lowest shot totals in the frame, but both still had quality looks.
Shepard and Buffalo stopped the shots and sent the game to overtime. Duluth outshot Dartmouth 5-1 in the extra session, but could not land the winning shot. The game was tied 2-2 after 65 minutes of skating.
For purposes of season records, the game was counted as a tie. To determine a tournament champion, the Zamboni cleaned the ice for a shootout.
Alex Jasiek took the first shot and Shepard barely kept it out. Peter Krieger netted a shot off the left post. Collin Rutherford tied the game with a right post wrister. Kobe Roth beat Buffalo backhanded to give Duluth a lead.
Corey Kalk went to his backhand to extend the shootout, but he missed. Duluth won the shootout 2-1 and claimed the Ledyard Bank Classic Title in their first appearance in the tournament.
Dartmouth’s Matt Baker and Duluth’s Blake Young, Peter Krieger, and Hunter Shepard were voted to the All-Tournament Team. After an 18 save shutout on Friday and a 41 save pefromance in the finale, Shepard was voted the MVP of the Tournament
Duluth’s win was remarkable because they were only skating four regular defensemen. Sammy Spurrell is normally a forward but he joined on the back end with three defensemen at the World Juniors and Nick McCormack suspended after the Friday night Yale game. They also did not get a single power play all night.
Scott Sandelin was happy with his team for the effort.
“That’s a first for me. I’ve ended games with four D, never started with four. We knew this was gonna be hard. They battle and have beaten good teams, so we couldn’t let up.”
Duluth runs their record to 9-9-3 and has a week off before starting 2018. The Bulldogs travel to World Arena to play the Colorado College Tigers on January 12th and 13th. Puck drops at 7:37 PM and 6:07 PM Mountain Time on Friday and Saturday respectively.
Dartmouth’s last three games saw the Big Green beat defending National Champion Denver, in-state rival New Hampshire, and tie last year’s National Runner-up and NCHC Tournament Champion Minnesota-Duluth. They didn’t come up with a trophy, but they represented themselves well.
Head coach Bob Gaudet was proud of his team and happy with the tournament.
“To have a tournament on campus like this one is fabulous. The teams stay at the Hanover Inn and walk over to the rink. Everyone who comes loves it, and this year was no different. These games we played were great, character-building games. We battled and showed toughness against two great teams. This is a close unit I’m coaching and I’m excited for the rest of this season.”
Dartmouth runs their record to 4-8-2. The Big Green begin 2018 in earnest next weekend. They host the Union College Dutchmen and the Rensselaer Engineers on January 5th and 6th to start the meat of the ECAC schedule. Puck drops at 7 pm at Thompson Arena on both nights.