HANOVER, N.H. — The Moncton Blue Eagles played Friday night. They arrived at Thompson Arena shortly before game time on Saturday. And they got outshot, 53-14.
But they still managed to look energetic and opportunistic in beating a highly-touted Dartmouth team, 3-2, in exhibition action before 1,219.
As a measure of gratitude, the Blue Eagles should give a couple of game pucks to blueliner Jean-Benoit Deschamps and goaltender David Pare.
Deschamps took three of Moncton’s shots and made good on two of them; the second was a blast from the blueline that spelled the eventual game-winner midway through the third period.
Pare took care of the rest. He made 51 saves and set the tone by holding the Big Green scoreless on 20 shots in the first period.
“Moncton was everything I could have asked for in an opponent at this point in the year,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet, whose team finished its preseason 1-1. “They have guys who have played hockey for a living. They’re professionals. I think we can learn a lot from playing a team like that.”
The Big Green fought back from two deficits but couldn’t answer Deschamps’ second goal, which came at the 8:47 mark of the third period.
Dartmouth had its best chance to tie it on a power play minutes later, but Pare made one save in that span and 19 total in the third period as Moncton held on for the win.
While Pare had a busy night and came up big, the Dartmouth goalies were perhaps caught on their heels due to a lack of activity. Nick Boucher played the first two periods and allowed two goals on 10 shots; Darren Gastrock played the third, permitting one goal on four shots.
Gaudet, a former goalie himself, said he’s not concerned.
“Nick saw 10 shots,” the coach said. “I think he’d much rather see 30. Pare had an easier day that Boucher or Gastrock, believe it or not, because he’s a part of the game. Moncton wasn’t entering our zone for long stretches of time, and it gets cold out there. There’s nothing to do.”
Dressing all of its top forwards for the first time in the preseason, Dartmouth looked aggressive and dangerous on offense, beginning the game with a flurry of shots and continuing the pressure throughout. But the Big Green had trouble finishing, as several quality chances were stuffed by the small but acrobatic Pare.
The Blue Eagle forwards had the opposite experience. They managed few shots but needed only two to take a 1-0 lead. Deschamps lit the lamp first, skating in quick before tipping a centering pass from Carl Prudhomme past Boucher.
On its 30th shot of the night, Dartmouth finally solved Pare. It wasn’t the most explosive or uncontested shot of the 30, but P.J. Martin’s laser from 15 feet out made its way through traffic and tied the game at one at 7:07 of the middle frame.
The visitors reclaimed their lead later in the period, as Jean-Francois Beliveau collected a nice lead pass from David Bilodeau and chipped it up and in.
One of Dartmouth’s top returnees sprung into action early in the third. On a power play, Kent Gillings looked for a pass but instead took a slapshot that clanged off the back crossbar, tying the game at two goals apiece.
Deschamps’ next one gave Moncton the win. Collecting a puck that caromed off an official, the defenseman smoked a shot that sailed past Gastrock, completing the Blue Eagles’ 2-0 trip to the States.
“Moncton reminds me of the old RPI teams,” Gaudet said of the Blue Eagles, who beat Vermont, 6-4, Friday night. “They’re very experienced. You have to try to finish them off because they have some skilled players who are just waiting for one opportunity.”
The Big Green now has eight days to prepare for the regular season opener against archrival Harvard. That game will take place on Nov. 4 in Cambridge.
“Harvard is a good team. They’re nationally ranked,” Gaudet said. “We’ll work hard all week and try to be that much crisper and that much more prepared to play.”