By Jack DeGange
Spectacular sophomores in 1941-42: Bill Harrison, Dick Rondeau and Jack Riley.
Dartmouth’s 1941-42 hockey season was scheduled to begin on Saturday, December 6. The game against Norwich University was cancelled the natural ice surface in Davis Rink was unplayable.
Less than 24 hours later, The Dartmouth ran an “EXTRA” proclaiming the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: For the United States, World War II had begun.
“The college athlete has a very definite place in this national emergency,” wrote Whitey Fuller, Dartmouth’s director of athletic publicity. Within a year, Fuller and many Dartmouth athletes and coaches would be in military service.
But, as the war unfolded in Europe and in the Pacific, the winter season of 1941-42 was played out to heights unmatched in the annals of athletics at Dartmouth.
When Coach Eddie Jeremiah’s skaters finally began their season on December 15 with a 4-0 win over Colby, New England’s small college champion, it would be the first step for a team that build a 21-2 record and lay claim to the mythical national collegiate championship (the NCAA hockey tournament didn’t begin until 1948).
Next door in Alumni Gym, Dartmouth’s basketball team enjoyed comparable success, winning 22 of 26 games and beating Kentucky for the Eastern title before bowing to Stanford for the NCAA championship.
Jeremiah’s team was anchored by Ted Lapres, the senior goaltender. Junior Harry Gerber and sophomore Ted Krol were the first defensive pair but it was three other sophomores center Dick Rondeau, flanked by Jack Riley and Bill Harrison who triggered the legendary campaign. When the season was done, their knowledgeable coach would call Rondeau-Riley-Harrison “the greatest college line of all time.”
In 23 games, Dartmouth scored 148 goals and allowed only 65. The sophomore line accounted for 101 goals. Rondeau was the leader with 76 points (45 goals). Harrison added 74 points (38 goals).
Riley had 40 points (18 goals) in 15 games. He played two games with a broken finger, then sat out four games before returning to net an unassisted goal in a 4-3 win over Boston University. Heeding Fuller’s message, Riley missed the team’s last five games as he departed for service in the Navy Air Corps.
The 1941-42 season also marked the starting point for an unbeaten streak of 46 games (45-0-1) that would continue through the 1944-45 season.
After beating Colby, Dartmouth headed west to play seven games in 19 days. The Big Green beat Colorado College, 3-2, but lost the rematch at Colorado Springs, 3-1. That was the game when Riley was injured: He played as Dartmouth lost to Illinois, the defending Midwest champs, before going to the bench. It was the last time the Big Green would be beaten.
The unbeaten streak began as Rondeau’s goal in the last minute of overtime beat Illinois, 5-4. After beating Colgate at Buffalo, N.Y., the Green headed west again. Rondeau’s hat trick keyed a 4-2 win at Minnesota. Harrison then scored three times as the Gophers were beaten again, 5-3.
The win over BU at Davis Rink on January 7, 1942 was the last time Dartmouth would play a one-goal game. Over the final 14 games of the season, only Harvard (5-3) and Yale (6-4) came within two goals of the Big Green.
Dartmouth attacked with machine-like precision. The Rondeau-Riley-Harrison line had 11 hat tricks. Harrison’s six-goal game against Army (12-2) was a high point. He and Rondeau each had five- and four-goal games.
Supporting Dartmouth’s claim to the mythical national title: A 7-2 win at Boston College, which went on to win the national AAU title, and a 7-3 win over St. Nick’s Hockey Club, the AAU champ in 1941.
After the season Jeremiah followed Jack Riley into the Navy but the golden era of Dartmouth hockey was just beginning. The 1942-43 team was 14-0-1 (a 4-4 tie at Harvard was the lone blemish in the unbeaten streak) with a Rondeau-Harrison-Riley line as Jack’s brother, Bill, launched his record-setting career.
With David Shribman ’76, Jack DeGange is co-author of Dartmouth College Hockey: Northern Ice.