TROY, N.Y. — With barely 10 minutes left, each team had one goal, but you knew more scoring was going to come. It just had to.
In a game that was wide-open at times with scoring opportunities for both sides, Rensselaer took a 2-1 lead midway through the third period only to see Dartmouth come back to score three unanswered goals in the last 3:26 to win at the Houston Fieldhouse for the first time since 1989.
Jamie Herrington scored the game winner with 2:24 to go and added the insurance goal with 15 seconds left to move the Big Green (9-8-3, 6-4-3 ECAC) into sole possession of third place in the ECAC. The loss left the Engineers (9-10-3, 3-7-2 ECAC) tied for tenth.
On the winning goal, Mike Wheelihan sent a long up ice pass that hit Lee Stempniak and a two-on-one developed. Stempniak went wide and fed Herrington. He was tied up with a defenseman, but managed to get a stick on it and deflect it past Nathan Marsters.
“He kept on plugging and went to the net and did a great job,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “It was a fitting game for Jamie. He’s not going to have the numbers that somebody else will, but he’s been a great player for us. He’s found a great complement with Stempniak. He works his butt off and it’s nice to see him have some success.”
“It was a matter of a guy getting inside position on our defensemen,” said Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen. ” I knew it was going to happen. It was a Hail Mary pass: it was going to connect or it was going to go wide. [Herrington] was going hard to the net.”
Herrington’s two goals capped off a Dartmouth comeback that started with 3:26 left to go, when Kent Gillings got the puck in front of the net and put it past Marsters to tie the game at 2-2.
Just seven minutes earlier, Steve Munn had put the Engineers in front 2-1 when his blue-line backhanded attempt to keep the puck in the zone found its way past Nick Boucher. Munn’s soft shot was not seen by Boucher, who was tied up in front with Matt Murley and a Dartmouth defender.
The Engineers had taken the lead 1-0 in the first period when Marc Cavosie’s backhander from the right wing found space between Boucher’s right skate and the post.
The Big Green tied it three minutes later, shorthanded. Herrington fed a puck across that was tipped up into the air, and Chris Baldwin swatted it into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Numerous opportunities arose for both squads throughout the next 50 minutes, but not much got past Boucher or Marsters until the final minutes.
“I thought our kids played very well and it was a good hockey game,” said Gaudet. “What happened at the end there, I can’t account for, but I know there was a feeling that if we continued to play real hard, we had our ‘A’ game and we got some breaks. We earned it tonight. We beat a good hockey team.”
“I thought we played an excellent hockey game. You get down to the last four or five minutes of the hockey game and you just have to tighten up defensively,” said Fridgen. “Call it a couple of bounces — and we’re not getting the bounces right now — but certainly what we put into the game, we deserved better than that.
“I thought we played real hard; it wasn’t a 4-2 game by any stretch of the imagination. Any bounces or breaks and it turns the tide in a hurry.”
“We played with a lot of maturity tonight. It was a really good team effort, we got all four lines and six defensemen involved,” said Gaudet. “It’s a credit to our guys that stuck with the game plan.
“We needed a break and then we had to earn it.”
The two teams will meet again on Friday, but this time in Hanover.
“This is a bitter pill to swallow, and hopefully we’re mentally tough enough that we’ll rebound and hopefully get redemption,” said Fridgen.