HANOVER, N.H. — During the first intermission of Friday night’s game pitting Dartmouth against Colgate, junior Ryan Sinclair told teammate Frank Nardella that he was lifting the metaphorical monkey off Nardella’s back.
Nardella then went out and promptly scored his first goal of the season, leading the surging Big Green to a 3-2 win before 2,176 fans at Thompson Arena.
Nardella’s goal — coming on a power play — began a spurt in which Dartmouth netted three goals in a 7:12 span, good enough for a 3-1 lead at the time. Colgate cut the deficit to one in the third period, but Big Green goaltender Nick Boucher played well late to seal the victory.
Dartmouth, now 5-2-1 in its last eight games, improves to 6-7-1 overall (3-3-1 ECAC), while Colgate falls to 4-12-3 (2-5-0).
“All week in practice, coach [Bob Gaudet] told us to work hard and stay on it,” said Nardella, who finished with a goal and an assist. “We had a little success last weekend, and I think we can keep it going.
“We went out there tonight and we didn’t play our best game, but we ended up winning 3-2. I think good teams have to learn how win ugly games, and I think we’re going to learn how to do that.”
In the Big Green net, Boucher reversed his poor career fortunes against Colgate, stopping 25 of 27 shots.
For the Red Raiders, who were doomed by Dartmouth’s second-period surge but otherwise played well, there were very few friendly bounces or lucky breaks. In the end, a letdown in the middle frame cost the struggling team — an NCAA Tournament participant last season — yet another league loss.
“We played a little bit better as the game went on,” coach Don Vaughan said, “but I thought Dartmouth came out of the gate strong and played very aggressive on the puck. And they really took it to us on that stretch there in the second period.”
Dartmouth and Colgate skated to a scoreless first period as the goalies played well.
For the Red Raiders, junior Jason Lefevre (32 saves) put on a clinic, making some spectacular saves. The best came late in the period, when Dartmouth right winger Chris Baldwin broke away with Colgate on the power play. Baldwin attempted a backhanded shot, but Lefevre made a beautiful kick save to keep the game scoreless.
The visitors took a 1-0 lead with a Bryan Long goal less than 30 seconds into the middle frame.
After that, however, the tide turned quickly. And in a big way.
Dartmouth’s surge began with Nardella’s goal. Nardella, the team’s scoring leader last season, found a rebound off Lefevre’s pads and hacked it in to knot the game at one.
Minutes later, freshman blueliner Brian Van Abel recorded the first goal of his career, collecting a Nardella feed off a faceoff and beating Lefevre to give the Big Green its first lead of the night.
Exactly a minute later, Mike Maturo got into the act. The junior Maturo, Dartmouth’s scoring leader, netted his ninth of the season on a soft backhander that evaded Lefevre’s reach and spelled the eventual game-winner. Maturo now has a team-leading three game-winning goals.
Lefevre, a perfect 16-for-16 in the first period, allowed three goals on 10 shots in the second.
Colgate cut its deficit to one in the opening moments of the third stanza, as first-line center Kyle Doyle beat Boucher with a fast line drive for his fifth of the season. Junior defenseman Rob Brown earned an assist on the play.
The Red Raiders outshot the Big Green 10-9 in the final period, but Boucher made plenty of quality saves to ensure the win.
Dartmouth has a chance for a perfect weekend Saturday night, but it won’t be easy. Visiting Cornell is near the top of the league standings.
“We’re playing a really good team tomorrow,” Gaudet said. “Cornell is an excellent team. They’re big and strong. They have a good goaltender.
“We’re just going to have to play a solid hockey game. And I think we’ve shown that we’re capable of doing that.”
Colgate, on the other hand, heads to Vermont without very many specific goals. Vaughan knows his team must do whatever it takes to scratch out a win.
“We’re at a point now where we can’t over-think things,” Vaughan said. “We just have to start playing loose and try to keep it fun somehow. We need to play desperate. We’re in a situation where we have to string some wins together. We want to claw our way back into it.”