Dartmouth needed just the final four minutes and 31 seconds of regulation to find some puck luck, coming back to bury Clarkson with three unanswered goals, 3-1.
“We had a sense that we were going to win the hockey game,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “They’re a good team, they did a good job defensively, their goalie played very well, but we played hard and earned some breaks.”
Dartmouth successfully completed the sweep of travel partners Clarkson and St. Lawrence for the first time in history. Vermont also pulled off the sweep, and is a team poised to make a late-season run in the ECAC.
Dartmouth’s newly stacked first line of Hugh Jessiman, Lee Stempniak, and Kent Gillings put some early pressure on the Clarkson defense and drew a penalty at 6:50.
Dartmouth’s man-advantage failed to spark its offense, as did the next four power plays. The Golden Knights squandered a power play of their own when Jeff Genovy was sent to the box for interference with 1:18 left on P.J. Martin’s interference penalty. Despite the distribution of 10 penalties, neither team could muster a power-play goal.
The best scoring chance of the first period belonged to Dartmouth while shorthanded with the final seconds ticking off the clock. Mike Ouellette broke away from the Clarkson defense with fellow freshman Eric Przepiorka by his side. Ouellette kept the puck and went for the goal, but Golden Knights’ netminder Mike Walsh was there to smother the backhander.
Dartmouth killed off the 1:26 of the Golden Knights’ advantage left over from the first period and looked to take control with a series of power-play chances in the second. Dartmouth could not cash in on any of the opportunities as the game became increasingly physical, with the hits far outnumbering shots on goal.
Stempniak tried to create some room at even strength, but was hooked to the ice by Rob McFeeters, who was consequently sent off at 8:58. Ouellette immediately unleashed a slapshot that Walsh turned aside, and Dartmouth’s fifth and final power play gradually faded away from there.
After Joe Gaul was penalized for interference at 11:41, Ouellette found himself on a second shorthanded breakaway — this time all alone from mid-ice on — and hit multiple bars of iron with his backhander, but no net.
Clarkson scored the first goal of the game on a freak accident when defenseman Dale Good dumped the puck in from behind his own goal line and Nick Boucher went down only to have it sneak between his knees at 15:16.
Ouellette, who peppered the opposing goaltenders all weekend, had a quick shot early in the third period that was deflected wide. On several occasions the Big Green put the puck in the crease but the rubber wouldn’t bounce past the goal line.
Finally, Dartmouth got its bounce at 15:16. Assistant captain Pete Summerfelt brought the puck into the zone and put the puck off of Walsh. Jarrett Sampson knocked the airborne puck into the back of the net with the shaft of his stick.
“That’s the kind of goal I thought we were going to score,” Gaudet said. “You look at goals nowadays, and it’s pucks just thrown at the net that go in. They’re not the highlight-reel backdoor or one-timer into an open net where everybody sees it coming and they’re just gorgeous.”
Clarkson was called for a delayed penalty as Jessiman was dragged down on his way in, but Dartmouth kept assaulting the net. Sean Offers ripped a shot from the left point that Ouellette tipped past a tiring Walsh to give Dartmouth a 2-1 advantage.
“It’s relieving,” Ouellette said, “if we had lost that game, I may have been crying myself to sleep tonight. Every situation is different, and you learn from your mistakes.”
Defensemen Sean Offers and Pete Summerfelt each finished with two assists on the night. Summerfelt’s 22nd and 23rd helpers of the season leaves him five shy of the Dartmouth single-season record for assists by a defenseman.
Mike Murray added an empty-netter with 31.6 seconds left in the game, securing a 3-1 victory.
The Big Green, now with an impressive 11-2-0 home record, will play host to Harvard and Brown next Friday and Saturday in the hopes of key Ivy League and ECAC points as the season winds down.