HANOVER, N.H. — Dan Casella’s goals are rarely pretty.
The Dartmouth junior is not the type of player to showboat or light the lamp with a blinding slapshot that leaves the goaltender without a prayer. But he gets the job done.
Facing a stingy Cornell team Saturday night, Casella scored his first of the season on a 2-on-1 breakaway in the second period. Casella attempted to pass to Michael Byrne, but his feed was blocked. An undaunted Casella gathered the puck and poked it past goaltender Matt Underhill, spelling the eventual game-winner in a 4-1 Dartmouth win.
Team scoring leader Mike Maturo added two goals — including an empty-netter — in the third period, as the Big Green pounded a Big Red squad that had allowed only 10 goals in seven league games.
With the win, Dartmouth reaches the .500 mark for the first time at 7-7-1 (4-3-1 ECAC), while Cornell falls to 7-5-3 (5-2-1). The Big Green is 3-0-1 in the new millennium.
“That’s a real good hockey team we beat,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet, whose team improved to 6-2-1 in its last nine games. “Our kids really wanted it. They wanted it bad. They deserved it. They worked unbelievably hard, and I thought we played a very smart hockey game.”
Cornell, also looking for a perfect weekend, was outshot 36-24, but kept the game close for much of the night.
The Big Red last dropped an ECAC matchup in its league opener way back on Nov. 10.
“Dartmouth deserved to win,” said head coach Mike Schafer. “I thought they worked hard. I thought they had good pressure on us. But I can’t be too unsatisfied with a split on the road.”
The first period was a defensive battle in the early going, as the teams were feeling each other out and the goaltenders were getting into a groove. On the whole, Dartmouth dominated, outshooting Cornell 16-4, but the teams still went into the first intermission dead even.
Dartmouth broke the ice more than 11 minutes into the game. Displaying a beautiful series of passes, Kent Gillings, Maturo and Dory Tisdale combined on a 3-on-2 rush to give their team a 1-0 lead.
Maturo passed the puck to Gillings, who slid it to Tisdale, who rifled it past a helpless Underhill (32 saves) in net for his third goal of the season.
The Big Green seemed to gather momentum after the goal, but Cornell struck unexpectedly minutes later. The Big Red secured the puck at center ice for Steven Baby, who directed it to a charging Denis Ladouceur inside the zone. Ladouceur made good on a 15-foot line drive past Nick Boucher (24 saves) to tie the game at one.
Unlike the first period, the middle frame was quite even in terms of control, though Cornell took 11 shots to Dartmouth’s five. The Big Red showed off its penalty killing unit midway through the period, stifling the home team to minimal chances.
Late in the period, the Big Green broke back on top with Casella’s goal. Pete Summerfelt and Peter Mahler earned assists on the play.
The third period was more like the first than the second, as Dartmouth took control. The Big Green received a big insurance goal midway through the period when an alert Maturo collected a rebound and slapped in his team-leading 10th goal past Underhill, who was out of position.
Maturo added an empty netter with just over a minute remaining, giving him three goals in two games, and eight goals and 12 points in his last seven contests.
“I wish I could tell you the secret,” Maturo said. “Things are just going in. Last night, I was passing the puck with my backhand, and it just happened to go in. I guess chances just happen, and you have to hope it never stops.”
Cornell returns home to host traveling-partner Colgate next Thursday night. The Big Green will battle Clarkson on Friday in upstate N.Y.