HANOVER, N.H. — A night after the Thompson Arena crowd witnessed a 6-4 shootout, it was treated to an equally exciting brand of hockey — a goaltending duel.
In a game that featured just one penalty, Rensselaer goaltender Nathan Marsters made 36 saves but fell victim to a couple of gorgeous goals and an equally impressive performance from Dartmouth netminder Nick Boucher, as the Big Green prevailed by a 2-1 margin Saturday night before a crowd of 2,927.
With the win, the Big Green (9-8-2, 6-4-2 ECAC) completed a perfect weekend and moved above the .500 mark for the first time all season. Dartmouth is 7-2-2 in its last 11 outings.
RPI (12-9-1, 6-5-1), meanwhile, settled for a split of its road weekend after a win at Vermont on Friday night.
“It was a good game,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “I thought our kids played real solid, fundamental hockey from start to finish. RPI is a gifted team with an excellent goalie, but we found a way to win.”
The Big Green, now tied for fourth in the ECAC standings after a stellar 5-1-2 January, is doing especially well on its home turf. Dartmouth hasn’t lost a league game at home since Nov. 18, and finished the month with a perfect 5-0-0 record at Thompson.
“If you want to be successful, you have to play really well at home, and then chip away on the road,” Gaudet said. “We’re drawing well now, there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the building … and our kids are doing a real nice job in putting a pretty exciting product on the ice.”
Dartmouth and RPI skated to an unusually even first period that included no penalties and no goals. Each team took 12 shots apiece.
The Engineers had the best opportunity late in the period, when junior center Jim Henkel forced a turnover in the Dartmouth zone and broke away unopposed toward the net. But Boucher (24 saves) swatted away Henkel’s attempt, keeping the game scoreless going into the intermission.
RPI broke on top early in the middle frame. Accepting a feed from defenseman Jim Vickers, Henkel charged the net and, catching Boucher leaning left, dumped a soft wrister between the pipes. Henkel’s goal was his sixth of the year.
Midway through the period, the home team responded. After Trevor Byrne sent in the puck from the blueline, sophomore Kent Gillings collected the rebound off goaltender Nathan Marsters’ pads and slid a tough-angle shot just inside the right post for his seventh of the season.
The Big Green outshot the Engineers by a convincing 17-4 margin in the second period, but a strong effort from Marsters limited Dartmouth to just the one goal.
“I thought Marsters played very well,” said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. “Both goaltenders played well. I thought they were the difference.”
Early in the third stanza, Byrne gave Dartmouth its first lead of the game when he one-timed a pass from Mike Murray between the pipes. For the blueliner Byrne, the goal was his seventh of the season, and it gave him points in nine of the last 11 games.
Playing strong defense, the Big Green made the lead stand up, as RPI failed to convert on any of its nine third-period shots and suffered its third loss in four games.
“I thought it was a well-played hockey game,” Fridgen said. “It was back-and-forth. There were really three breakdowns in the game, and they all ended up as goals.”
These two teams will be back in action against one another next Friday night, with RPI playing the role of host at Houston Field House.