HANOVER, N.H. — If Northeastern was going to break its pesky six-game winless streak, Bruce Crowder knew that somebody was going to have to step up and make something happen.
The Huskies coach just didn’t know it was going to be a fourth-line rookie forward with zero career goals.
Eric Ortlip, a freshman left winger skating in his 13th career game, netted his first two career goals in a 17-second span of the third period to lift the visiting Huskies to a 3-2 win Saturday night against Dartmouth before 2,459 fans at Thompson Arena.
Ortlip’s two netters, combined with the strong play of goaltender Mike Gilhooly in the third period, afforded Northeastern its first win since Nov. 12 and snapped an 0-4-2 skid.
“I would have been happy if anybody else had stepped up,” Ortlip said. “As long as somebody does it, I’m happy.
“I think the best thing about our team is that we have many guys who are capable of doing that. You can look down the bench and know that every single guy has the potential to score, but it’s always a good feeling for yourself when you pull through like that.”
Northeastern (6-6-3, 2-4-3 Hockey East), which was ranked earlier in the season before struggling against tough competition, now has 20 days off before heading to New York’s capital region for the RPI Tournament to end 2000.
“We needed somebody to step up,” Crowder said. “One of the things I told them between periods is that this is probably the oldest team I’ve had at Northeastern.
“I was looking for somebody to be a difference-maker. It happened to be a freshman tonight, but at the same time, we have to be more poised and ready to play under any circumstances.”
Dartmouth took the ice for the first time after a lengthy exam break. The Big Green beat then-11th-ranked Maine 2-1 two weeks ago, and had hoped to put together a winning streak before re-entering the league schedule after New Year’s Day.
Two Big Green skaters — tri-captain Michael Byrne and junior Gary Hunter — broke lengthy scoring droughts, but it wasn’t enough. Dartmouth took 37 shots to the Huskies’ 29, the sixth time in eight games the Big Green has outshot an opponent, but still fell to 2-6 (1-3 ECAC) on the season.
“We didn’t make very many mistakes tonight,” coach Bob Gaudet said. “We played a very good team, and I thought we played a very good hockey game. It’s just a couple of situations that they put in the net.
“I thought we played very physically, I thought we skated well, I thought we played hard, and I thought we could have had a lot more than we did.”
The teams skated to a 1-1 draw in the first period.
The Big Green opened the scoring eight minutes into the game when Byrne scored his first of the season off a rebound. Sophomore blueliner P.J. Martin fired the initial shot and earned an assist on the play, as did freshman Brian Van Abel.
Northeastern responded less than two minutes later as junior center Chris Lynch tallied his eighth of the year. Lynch took a feed from linemate Graig Mischler before rushing the net and fooling goaltender Nick Boucher (26 saves) with a backhanded shot to make it 1-1.
The home team held a considerable shooting advantage throughout much of the first period, but the Huskies picked up the pace in the waning minutes to cut Dartmouth’s shots lead to 12-10 entering the first intermission.
The middle frame was a defensive battle, as much of the play occurred in the neutral zone or just in front of the bluelines, and the puck went from one end of the ice to the other several times.
With just over two minutes remaining in the period, Hunter rattled the cage for the first time since his freshman year. Hunter, at the top of the slot, took his time and fired a 15-foot liner that sailed through heavy traffic and past Gilhooly (35 saves). Jamie Herrington earned an assist on the play.
Dartmouth again outshot Northeastern 12-10 in the period.
In the third, Ortlip took control.
At 4:12 of the period, he took a pass from Sean MacDonald and rifled a shot that spelled his first career goal. Seventeen seconds later, Ortlip broke free from the blue line and dumped a wrister past Boucher to give Northeastern a 3-2 lead.
The Big Green had several chances to tie it, but Gilhooly had a strong third period to seal the win.
With a lengthy holiday break ahead, Crowder was happy his team finally broke back into the win column.
“Before the game, I told the guys, ‘We’re off until the 26th and we don’t play until the 29th. Do you want to sit at home and say shoulda, woulda, coulda?’
“I give them a lot of credit. They responded and played hard. We’ll take it.”
Northeastern will face RPI in the first round of the RPI tournament on Dec. 29, while Dartmouth is back in action next Friday night at Merrimack.