LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Dartmouth tri-captain Michael Byrne feared that his career was coming to an end. Then Kent Gillings gave it new life.
With 13.1 seconds left in regulation, Gillings dumped his 11th goal of the season past Vermont netminder Shawn Conschafter, tying the ECAC preliminary game at two and completing Dartmouth’s comeback from an early 2-0 deficit.
In the extra session, team scoring leader Mike Maturo gave the Big Green (16-12-4) a dramatic 3-2 victory, collecting his own rebound and ruffling the net with his 18th to advance his team to a semifinal date with St. Lawrence Friday night and extend the careers of Dartmouth’s three seniors.
“It was a great feeling,” Byrne said minutes after the win. “I was standing next to [senior] Peter Mahler on the bench. We looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got 30 seconds left. I hope this isn’t it.’
“We knew we had the character on this team. And winning a game like this gives us momentum for the rest of the weekend. It gives us the confidence that we can play with anybody, because Vermont is no pushover.”
Said Maturo, whose game-winner was his sixth of the year: “It was total elation after that goal. This team has a lot of character, so I think this win epitomizes our team, coming back like we did in overtime.”
The fourth-seeded Big Green looked sluggish in the early going, surrendering goals to a pair of defensemen to fall behind by two goals early in the second period.
But Dartmouth held the fifth-seeded Catamounts (14-18-2) scoreless after that, finding a way to win and advance to the semis for the first time since 1980.
The Big Green is now 4-0-4 in overtime games this season.
“I was proud of our guys,” head coach Bob Gaudet said. “We never gave up. We chipped away. It wasn’t pretty at times, but I was really proud of the effort of our guys. We found a way to score in the last few seconds of the game, and then I thought we played well in overtime.”
With the loss, Vermont’s improbable run in the playoffs come to an end.
After going 2-12-2 from Jan. 5 to March 2 and squeaking into the playoffs with a win on the last day of the regular season, the Catamounts toppled regular-season champion Clarkson in a three-game series last weekend. Their clinching win came in overtime.
Vermont ran out of miracles on this night, but still gained valuable experience after a roller coaster season.
“I’m glad to see that some of the young guys got this experience because I plan on being back here next year,” said veteran head coach Mike Gilligan.
In a first period in which the teams were feeling each other out and getting used to the large ice surface, the Catamounts grabbed a 1-0 lead.
Thirteen minutes into the game, after each team had notched an unsuccessful power-play attempt, Vermont lit the lamp when senior defenseman Andreas Moborg took a dish from classmate J.F. Caudron and blasted a quick, top-shelf shot from the blue line that whisked past goaltender Nick Boucher (32 saves) and between the pipes. Moborg’s goal, also assisted by Graham Mink, was his seventh of the season.
Dartmouth outshot the Catamounts, 11-9, in the period.
Vermont stretched its lead to two goals with a power-play marker early in the middle frame. After Dartmouth failed to clear the zone, the Catamounts’ Martin Wilde collected the puck in the slot and rifled in his third of the season. Wilde’s goal was unassisted.
Midway through the period, the Big Green snapped the shutout in unexpected fashion, as rookie defenseman Mike Turner fired in the puck from the red line and had it skirt past netminder Shawn Conschafter (33 saves) for his second career goal. Craig Lund and Dory Tisdale earned assists on the play.
Vermont outshot Dartmouth, 16-10, in the period.
The Catamounts protected their lead for over 19 minutes, staving off a Big Green power play in the process.
Dartmouth pulled its goalie with over a minute remaining, and then applied consistent pressure, peppering Conschafter with shots until Gillings snuck one through with 13.1 seconds remaining. Junior Chris Baldwin and sophomore Trevor Byrne assisted the goal.
“I think that is the biggest goal of my life,” Gillings said after the game. “All year, you’re working to get here, but you don’t want to be satisfied with getting here. You want to win.
“I wasn’t sure that the puck went in until I saw all the guys yelling around me, so then I was excited.”
Dartmouth outshot Vermont, 4-2, in the extra session, ending Vermont’s season when Maturo connected on the fourth.
The Catamounts finished the season 1-2-1 against traveling partner Dartmouth.
“Not many classes have gone through the things we’ve gone through,” said Vermont captain Jerry Gernander, alluding to the hazing scandal that prematurely ended the Catamount’s 1999-2000 season. “It’s been interesting to be able to go out, not on top, but making it quite a bit. I think we really did some things that not a lot of people thought we could do.”
Dartmouth will face the top-seeded St. Lawrence Saints Friday night following the other semifinal featuring Harvard and Cornell.
Big Green Notes: After sweeping Rensselaer in the first round, one would think that Dartmouth would make no changes to its lineup heading into Lake Placid. But the Big Green had no choice. Junior Jamie Herrington missed his first career game due to a back injury he suffered on a hit by RPI’s Marc Cavosie last Saturday night. Herrington practiced with the team all week, but was a late scratch because he was not 100 percent. In his stead, junior Craig Lund filled in at center, playing his first game of the season and notching an assist on Mike Turner’s second-period goal. Herrington is now considered day-to-day. … Sophomore Kent Gillings’ goal with 13.1 seconds left in regulation was his 11th of the season, giving 29 points for the year. Gillings had two points last season. … Chris Baldwin’s assist on Gillings’ goal gave him 17 points in the last 15 games. Baldy has 10 goals and seven assists over that span. … Dartmouth’s win was its first when trailing after two periods all season. The Big Green went 1-0-1 against St. Lawrence during the regular season, tying the Saints 2-2 on Jan. 20 before beating them 5-4 on March 2. … Sophomore defenseman Trevor Byrne was named to the All-ECAC second team. Three Big Green players, meanwhile, earned All-Ivy honors. Junior Mike Maturo was placed on the first team, joining Byrne, who was a unanimous selection. Goaltender Nick Boucher was named All-Ivy honorable mention.
Catamounts Notes: Andreas Moborg’s goal pushed him to a team-leading plus-14 on the season. He now has a goal in two consecutive games. … Moborg’s defensive partner, Martin Wilde, now has six points in the last five games with his second-period goal. … Center Patrick Sharp was named to the ECAC’s All-Rookie team.