HANOVER, N.H. — Credit for Dartmouth’s recent winning ways usually goes to the team’s top line — and deservedly so.
But Friday night, it was time for a different Big Green unit to shine.
The line of juniors Chris Taliercio, Frank Nardella and Chris Baldwin contributed five goals as the Big Green squeaked past slumping Union 6-4 before 1,826 fans at Thompson Arena.
The left-winger Taliercio was the biggest hero, finishing with a career-high five points on two goals and three assists. Baldwin, a right winger, converted a hat trick, including the eventual game-winner early in the third period.
With the win, the Big Green improved to 8-8-2 (5-4-2 ECAC), including 6-2-2 in its last 10 games. Union (7-11-3, 3-7-1), meanwhile, is now winless in 12 of its last 13 games.
“I was telling the guys that I had four points before tonight, and I just outscored myself,” Taliercio said. “It’s always nice, but the biggest thing is the two points for a win.”
Twice during the night, it looked as if the surging Big Green would win comfortably. Dartmouth had a 4-1 lead early in the second period before Union cut it to 4-3; then, Baldwin’s second goal made it 5-3 early in the third stanza before a goal from Dutchman sophomore Kris Goodjohn trimmed it to 5-4.
In the end, however, Dartmouth’s power play was the deciding factor, according to Union coach Kevin Sneddon.
“Five-on-five, I thought we won the hockey game,” he said. “I thought we played well five-on-five, but I can’t say enough about their power play. We worked on the penalty kill all week, but we just didn’t have it during the game.”
The special teams units dominated a penalty-rich first period as three power-play goals were scored.
The Big Green wasted no time getting on the board, netting a pair in the first nine minutes.
Sophomore Mike Murray made it 1-0, taking a pass from linemate Mike Maturo before wristing his sixth of the year past goaltender Brandon Snee (25 saves). Trevor Byrne also earned an assist on the play, giving him points in eight of the last 10 games.
Minutes later, Dartmouth’s other power-play line lit the lamp, as Baldwin found the back of the net with one second left with the extra man. Taliercio took the initial shot from slot, setting up Baldwin for an easy slapper past Snee.
The Big Green looked in total control, but Union answered late in the period with a power-play goal of its own. Standing in front of the net and accepting a beautiful feed from Jeff Wilson, sophomore Kris Goodjohn dumped his fifth of the season between the pipes to cut Dartmouth’s lead to 2-1 going into the intermission.
The home team burst out to a three-goal advantage as Taliercio scored a pair of goals in the first five minutes of the middle frame.
Taliercio’s first marker came off a faceoff, as the left winger collected Nardella’s feed and slid a quick one past Snee. Minutes later, Taliercio redirected a centering pass from Nardella between Snee’s legs, good enough for a power-play goal to give Dartmouth a commanding 4-1 lead.
Midway through the period, Union began to chip away. Taking advantage of a rebound and an absence of defenseman, Dutchman right winger Jason Ralph poked his seventh of the year past goaltender Nick Boucher (25 saves), making it 4-2.
Minutes later, Union once again cut its deficit to a single goal, as junior Drew Taylor’s shot from the blue line bounced off teammates Ales Havlik and Wilson before finding the back of the net. Wilson earned credit for the goal, as Dartmouth took a tenuous 4-3 lead into the intermission.
Early in the third stanza, Baldwin one-timed a Jamie Herrington pass for his second of the game and Dartmouth’s fourth power-play goal of the night. Baldwin’s goal was the eventual game-winner.
Baldwin said: “I felt confident coming in. I’ve been moving pretty good all week. I felt like it was time for our line to finally pop a couple home, and we did.”
For the third time, Union battled to within one goal, as Goodjohn redirected a Jason Kean shot for his second netter of the night.
The score was 5-4 until the final minute, when Baldwin banked the puck off the side boards and into the empty net to complete Dartmouth’s triumphant night.
“Before the game, I said, ‘Fellas, it’s going to be a one-goal game,’ ” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “It essentially was. Union is a very physical team and they played very hard. I’m proud of our guys for pulling out the ‘W.’ ”
The Big Green will look for a perfect weekend when it hosts RPI Saturday night, while Union will head north to take on Vermont in a battle of struggling teams.