HANOVER, N.H. — Nick Deschenes is feeling right at home on the Yale Bulldogs’ vaunted first line.
The sophomore, skating alongside celebrated seniors Jeff Hamilton and Ben Stafford, continued his superb season with two goals and two assists Friday night against ECAC rival Dartmouth, helping the 15th-ranked Bulldogs to a gritty 5-4 win at Thompson Arena.
The game was quite even through the first 30 minutes, but Deschenes’ goals — coming four minutes apart in the second period — allowed the visitors to claim a 3-2 lead. The teams battled for a pair of goals each in the third period, but Yale (4-1, 2-1 ECAC) held on for the win.
Deschenes, whose contributions were part of a nine-point night for the first line, now has five goals and nine points in five games.
“It’s kind of been made easy for me,” said Deschenes, who had six goals and 15 points in 29 games last season. “Jeff [Hamilton] and Ben [Stafford] control the puck a lot and make smart plays. If I’m just positioned right, I’m bound to get some opportunities. I was fortunate to score a couple goals tonight.”
Hamilton had a goal and three assists on the night, and in the process drew “best player in the country” compliments from Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet and many of his players.
The Big Green (1-4, 1-2) looked strong in front of a sizeable home crowd, using a somewhat retooled lineup to bolster its offensive production. Dartmouth matched a season high with four goals — including two from sophomore Mike Murray — and finished the night 2-for-6 on the power play.
Gaudet said he liked everything about the game — except for the final score.
“I liked everything but the score,” Gaudet said, “but the score is the bottom line. And this is a bottom-line business. I think we’ll find a way.”
The teams skated to a highly competitive first period that ended in a 1-1 tie.
Dartmouth scored with 2:48 left in the period, as Murray tallied his first of the season off a 2-on-1 breakaway, opting to fire the puck on net rather than pass it to teammate Kent Gillings.
The Big Green appeared to take control from there, but Yale’s first line struck with nine seconds to go in the period. Skating along the boards, the dangerous Hamilton slid the puck across the crease to Stafford, who one-timed it past goaltender Nick Boucher (17 saves) for his fourth of the season.
Dartmouth reclaimed its one-goal lead early in the middle frame, as Murray beat goaltender Dan Lombard (34 saves) on a power play for the first two-goal game of his career.
The home team, armed with momentum, was outshooting Yale by a wide margin midway through the second, but the Bulldogs quickly took control by showing effectiveness on the power play.
Deschenes made it 2-2 with a rebound goal, banging home a Hamilton attempt. Four minutes later, Deschenes lit the lamp again, tipping a Jeff Dwyer shot past a helpless Boucher. Both of Deschenes’ goals came in man-advantage situations.
The Bulldogs appeared to ice the game early in the third period, beating the normally dependable Boucher for two quick goals. The first came on a beautiful play by Hamilton, while sophomore Evan Wax gave Yale a comfortable 5-2 margin just over a minute later.
The Big Green made it interesting by cutting its deficit to one, as juniors Mike Maturo and Chris Taliercio each scored midway through the period. But Dartmouth could never bridge the gap, as a strong showing from Lombard allowed Yale to fend off a series of late power plays.
“We took the late penalties, which bothered me,” Taylor said. “And then we gave up an even-strength goal [to Taliercio]. But I thought we showed a lot of character to pull out the win on the road.”
The Bulldogs will look to complete a perfect road trip Saturday night when they visit Vermont, while Dartmouth will host Princeton.