(Photo Courtesy of Dartmouth Athletics)
During the Brendan Callahan era (2015-current), the Dartmouth Big Green have only eclipsed two wins twice, once coming during Callahan’s first year in 2015 (5-8) and the other coming during the shortened 2020 season (3-1). While things haven’t exactly taken off under Callahan, the improvements are noticeable.
Following a 2021 season in which the Big Green were one of the lucky Ivies and got to play two contests, losing to Tufts (DIII), 15-9, before beating St. Anselm (DIII) 20-6 in a season-ending scrimmage, this Dartmouth squad, like every Ivy League program, has no shortage of motivation coming into 2022. And while for most Ivies the motivation comes from simply getting the chance to play again after a year off, the Big Green may have a little extra source of motivation: wanting to prove that their strong start in 2020 in which they beat Merrimack, Bryant, and UMass Lowell before falling to Vermont by one-goal in their season-finale, was no fluke.
Will the recent on-field improvements and various recruiting successes over the past few seasons lead this program to a “Cinderella” season in 2022? The chances are slim the way the Ivy League is looking like it could shake out this season. But this team could very well continue to trend upwards, and maybe be involved in serious battles against more fellow Ivies than expected. After finishing last in the Ivy League for the past seven seasons, any movement upward is a good sign for this Dartmouth program.
Playing only two contests in over a year, Dartmouth falls into a similar boat as many other Ivies where it’s difficult to know exactly how this squad will look come February. However, the one thing that is certain about this Big Green squad is that this offense may be a bit more experienced than some may realize. While there were a lot of freshmen who stepped up in the Big Green’s two contests in 2021, there is still a good amount of veterans on this roster from that 2020 team.
The two most important returnees from that team are fifth-year attackmen George Prince and Matt Paul. A starter since the moment he stepped foot on campus, it feels like Prince has been the leader of this Dartmouth offense for a lifetime at this point. He put up 30 points (16G/14A) during his last full season in 2019 before tallying nine goals and seven assists for 16 points during the shortened 2020 season, where he looked to be on track to for the best season of his career.
Playing Robin to his Batman, Paul has been right there alongside Prince all four years in Hanover. A starter since his freshman season, the Massachusetts native put has been one of the Big Green’s most reliable goal-scorers, tallying 29 points (22G/7A) during his last full season in 2019 before putting up 11 goals and one assist in 2020. The duo not only highlights this Dartmouth offense but this squad as a whole. The pair is likely to continue producing at the level they have been all their careers, which will certainly be needed if Dartmouth is going to continue to trend upwards, especially offensively, in 2022.
In addition to the pair of fifth-year attackmen, Dartmouth also returns junior attackman Tommy Rogan, as well as sophomores Ben DiGiovanni, Henry Bonnie, and Peter Lapina, among plenty of other young players on the offensive end. Rogan played in all four games and started twice as a freshman during the 2020 season, tallying 12 points off eight goals and four assists as the Big Green’s third-leading scorer. DiGiovanni started at midfield while Bonnie and Lapina were reserve attackmen during the Big Green’s two contests in 2021. The trio, along with numerous other younger players, will likely see an increased role in 2022 and could be part of forming one of the deeper Dartmouth offenses we’ve seen in quite some time.
The faceoff dot is another area where Dartmouth does return some quality experience and talent with junior Mitchell Myers. The California native earned his position as the Big Green’s top option at the dot as a freshman in 2020, going 45-for-87 (51%). Being the first starting faceoff man to even hit the 50% mark at Dartmouth since 2015, Myers’ success helped provide an immediate boost on both ends of the field. His continued success in 2022 will be needed if this squad really does want to continue taking steps forward, especially on the offensive end where possession is everything.
While the Big Green return some high-quality experience on offense and at the faceoff dot, the story is a bit different on the defensive end. Senior goalie Daniel Hincks, who has started all but three games during his time in Hanover, senior LSM Peter Rizzotti, and junior defenseman Andrew Johnston are the only defensive players still on the roster from that 2020 season who have any starting experience. Hincks posted a 62% save percentage during that shortened season, while Rizzotti was second on the team in caused turnovers (4) and ground balls (9). Johnston, who played in all four games with one start, scooped up six ground balls and caused two turnovers.
The trio will be the leaders of a Big Green defense this spring that should be fairly young and features a number of options defensive coordinator Matt Dugan could rely on. Blake Brookes and Jack Cooleen started as freshmen during last seasons’ two games and could very remain in that role during the 2022 season. Senior Foster Burnley has served as a reserve pole for most of his career but did start in six games during the 2019 season. The Big Green also have some incoming freshmen, such as LSM Joe Azelby, who could see significant time and be an impact player on the back end this spring.