HANOVER, N.H. — This one lived up to last week’s billing.
Both humbled by disappointing losses after entering the season in the national rankings, Dartmouth and Harvard played an entertaining, high level of hockey Saturday night in front of a nearly packed house of 3,707 at Thompson Arena, skating to a 3-3 tie in a game marked by stretches of domination on each side.
The Big Green appeared to be in firm control after grabbing a 2-0 lead at the 13:23 mark of the second period, but a spirited Harvard comeback afforded the Crimson a 3-2 advantage early in the third.
Just as the vultures were circling over the home bench, Harvard superstar Dominic Moore was booted with a five-minute major and game disqualification for butt-ending, and Frank Nardella lit the lamp on the ensuing power play to make it 3-3.
A disappointing tie for Dartmouth (1-1-1, 1-1-1 ECAC), perhaps, considering it outshot Harvard (1-2-1, 1-2-1), 47-22, but the Big Green men easily could have lost to their opportunistic rivals.
“From a fan’s standpoint, it was an entertaining, exciting game,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “We would have liked to get four points this weekend, but we’ll take the three. That was a losable game. When we went down, we could have let it get away. But we fought back. I was happy with the performance overall.”
Last week, the Dartmouth-Harvard clash was the showcase matchup in the ECAC, as each team brought a Top 15 ranking into a game that ended in a mostly ugly 5-2 Harvard win.
Saturday night’s game was greeted with less fanfare, but this time, it exceeded expectations.
Periods one and three — and, for that matter, the beginning of two — saw the Big Green dominate in such a way that the score should not have been close, as Dartmouth outshot Harvard, 32-10, in the first and third periods combined and scored twice in the second.
But Crimson goaltender Will Crothers’ outstanding play, combined with Harvard’s three goals in a seven-minute, 37-second span of the second and third stanzas, made the game a close and memorable one.
“Our goalie was outstanding. I thought he kept us in the game at certain points when we were down,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni.
“I think what happened last week is that Dartmouth saw us lose to Brown [the night before], and maybe they underestimated us. Tonight, we saw the real Dartmouth team that we expected to see.”
The first period was controlled by Dartmouth but the Big Green repeatedly played the role of bridesmaid, challenging Crothers (44 saves) with numerous quality scoring chances that just missed lighting the lamp.
Crothers’ perfect play kept the game scoreless through 20 despite a 14-6 Dartmouth shooting advantage.
Like in Friday night’s 6-3 win over Brown, the Big Green began the middle frame on fire, as Dan Casella got the home team on the board at the 3:35 mark with a chip-shot goal that he backhanded in under pressure.
“It felt good. I only scored two goals last season, so I’ll take every one I can get,” Casella said.
From there, Dartmouth thoroughly dominated the next 10 minutes, holding Harvard shot-less over long stretches while grabbing a two-nil advantage when Mike Murray and Mike Maturo teamed up on a one-timer, with Murray feeding Maturo for the senior co-captain’s fourth point of the weekend.
The visitors looked hapless following Maturo’s goal, but they picked up their play when freshman defenseman Noah Welch beat Nick Boucher (19 saves) with a great shot off a centering pass to make it a one-goal game.
The score soon flipped around in Harvard’s favor, as Tim Pettit converted late in the frame on a power play and Kenny Smith lit the lamp off a faceoff one minute into the third.
Following Smith’s goal, Dartmouth was the team that looked deflated, but Moore’s major infraction signaled a major turning point.
“He deserved it. I saw it,” Mazzoleni said. “The official had to make the call. What the official didn’t see was the Dartmouth player holding his stick, but it still doesn’t justify what our guy did.”
Nardella scored three minutes into the major, rifling the puck through Crothers’ legs to make it 3-3 with five minutes to play.
Each team had a power play late in regulation, but strong play by both goaltenders limited each squad to a single point in the standings. The Big Green outshot the Crimson, 18-4, in the third period and 2-1 in overtime.
Dartmouth next faces Yale Saturday night at the New Haven Coliseum, while Harvard will host Cornell Friday night at Bright Hockey Center.