HANOVER, N.H. — A large portion of the Dartmouth student body, armed with tennis balls, packed Thompson Arena Saturday night. Nate Nomeland spoiled the party.
The Princeton goaltender, the potential target of hundreds of tennis balls after Dartmouth’s first goal — it’s a longstanding tradition at Dartmouth-Princeton games at Thompson — made sure the lamp behind him would never light.
The sophomore stopped a perfect 40 of 40 shots, leading the Tigers (2-1-3, 1-1-2 ECAC) to a 6-0 rout in front of 2,250 mostly disappointed fans. For the record, the students did launch the tennis balls — the puck trickled into the net moments after a second-period whistle — but Nomeland was happy just to get his first career shutout.
“It’s hard to play behind Dave Stathos because he’s so good,” said Nomeland, who sat in favor of Stathos Friday night at Vermont and may not play in Princeton’s game against Yale this Tuesday.
“When I finally do get a chance, there’s zero margin of error. I just want to play well when I play. I want Dave to play well when he plays. Whatever’s best for the team is best for everybody.”
For Dartmouth, little went right against the Tigers.
Both goaltenders had difficult nights. Freshman Darren Gastrock started and stopped only three of six shots in the first period. Sophomore Nick Boucher came in for the final 40 minutes and surrendered three goals on 14 shots.
Equally troubling, the offense was ominously quiet. Dartmouth was held scoreless for the first time since its season opener and finished the night 0-for-8 on the power play.
With a full week off, the Big Green hopes to get its act together before hosting nationally ranked Maine next Saturday night.
“It’s a long season,” assistant coach Dave Peters said. “We’re playing well in certain parts of the games, but we’re just coming up short.
“I thought we outplayed Princeton early in the game, but we fell behind and then we started pressing. We tried to do too much in certain areas, and then it got away from us.”
Dartmouth outshot Princeton 12-6 in the first period, including 10-1 in the first 16:15, but the Tigers exploded for three goals on five shots in the last 3:45 of the period.
Defenseman Steve Slaton got the rally going, beating Gastrock with a beautiful wrap-around effort for the first of his career and the eventual game-winner.
Less than two minutes later, junior Brad Parsons got into the act, taking a pass from linemate Kirk Lamb and lining a shot through Gastrock’s legs. With 25 seconds left in the period, senior Chris Corrinet made it 3-0, flushing a rebound for his fourth of the season.
The Big Green switched goalies for the second period, but it didn’t help much. Princeton increased its advantage to 4-0 early in the period, as senior Ethan Doyle broke free from the blue line and beat Boucher with a wrister from the slot. The goal was Doyle’s second of the season.
All told, Dartmouth outshot Princeton 17-8 in the period, but Nomeland’s strong play preserved the shutout.
Princeton added a pair of third-period goals to set the final margin, as David Del Monte connected for his first of the season before Corrinet tallied his second of the game late in regulation. Nomeland made 11 saves in the third period.
The Big Green outshot the visitors 40-20, giving coach Len Quesnelle some cause for concern.
“I didn’t think we controlled the game at all,” the first-year coach said. “Just look at the shots on net. Nate Nomeland played a great game for us.
“Dartmouth outworked us. They certainly out-chanced us. From my perspective, this is one of the ugliest wins I’ve ever been associated with.”
Princeton will host Yale Tuesday night in a battle of traveling partners, while the Big Green waits until next Saturday night for Maine of Hockey East to come to town.