Men’s ice hockey defeats Dartmouth behind Landon Smith’s hat trick

Justin Cait

No. 7/8 Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey beat Dartmouth by a score of 6-3 at High Point Solutions Arena on Friday night.

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The win boosts the Bobcats’ overall record to 6-3-1 and, more importantly, their ECAC record to 2-1-0. The Big Green fall to 2-1-1 overall and carry a conference record of 1-1-1.

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold was pleased with his team’s effort on Friday night, praising their ability to fight back after a shaky start.

“I didn’t think we were good in the beginning, I give Dartmouth credit. They jumped us,” Pecknold said. “We struggled a bit with our composure and our compete, then we were much better in the second and really good in the third, so, happy to get a win.”

Dartmouth came out of the gates flying when sophomore forward Kevan Kilstoff scored just 1:01 into the first period on a rebound that caught Quinnipiac goaltender Chris Truehl off guard.

A couple of Quinnipiac power plays later, freshman defenseman Karlis Cukste found the back of the net for his third goal of the season. Cukste was one of three defenseman on the first power-play unit, a combination that worked for Pecknold’s Bobcats in this game.

“If we feel it’s going to put us in the best situation to score, then that’s what we’ll do,” Pecknold said. “We just gotta get out best players on the ice…some years you roll one D and four forwards, sometimes you run five forwards.”

Although the Bobcats’ power play woes were temporarily silenced, it was Dartmouth that struck next. Sophomore forward John Ernstring scored his first of the season midway through the first frame to give the Big Green a lead going into the second period.

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That lead would not last for long as senior forward Tim Clifton found twine on the power play to knot the score up at 2. Clifton’s sixth goal of the season is also his 18th career power-play goal, good enough for second among all active NCAA players.

The goal scoring would not stop there as junior forward Bo Pieper banged away at a loose puck in front and jammed it home with just 1.7 seconds left in the second period to extend Quinnipiac’s lead to 4-2 going into the final period of play.

“That’s just great awareness by their line,” Tim Clifton said. “Not giving up on the play [that] they could’ve easily just backed off and said, ‘Oh, period is over, no big deal,’ but they didn’t, and that’s a testament to their character and that was a big goal in the game. That really changed the tides for us.”

From that point on, it was Quinnipiac’s game.

The Bobcats came out in the third period firing 16 of their 54 total shots on goal at Dartmouth goaltender Devin Buffalo. One of those 16 shots belonged to junior forward Landon Smith, who made no mistake scoring on a rebound for his second of the season.

Just four minutes later, Big Green forward Cam Strong would keep the game close by cutting the lead to 4-3.

However, Landon Smith would not stand for that.

Just two minutes after Strong’s goal, Smith scored his second of the night on another rebound and just under two minutes after that, he scored his third of the night on the power play off of a hard snap shot from the point.

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Smith’s natural hat trick in the third period propelled the Bobcats to victory, but he just felt good about finally getting on the scoresheet after a minor scoring slump in recent games.

“Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t,” Smith said. “They haven’t been bouncing for me lately, but tonight I’m lucky they were.”

Next up, the Bobcats take on No. 10/10 Harvard at home on Saturday night in another conference battle.

With three power-play goals against Dartmouth, Quinnipiac hopes to keep improving on the man advantage that has snake-bitten them in the recent past.

“We had a lot of trouble creating chances in the first couple of games of the season, we were 0 for…a lot,” Clifton said. “Now I think we’re working harder, we’re becoming more crisp with our breakout passes, we’re getting better zone entries and we’re just executing.”