HANOVER, N.H. — Dan Fridgen gritted his teeth. Then he bit his tongue.
But he didn’t say anything.
The Rensselaer head coach was visibly displeased, albeit wisely silent, when asked about an interference penalty that went against his star player, Marc Cavosie, in overtime Friday night at Dartmouth.
But the veteran coach was very pleased that his team managed to kill that penalty, which helped the Engineers secure a 2-2 tie with the Big Green in front of 2,702 at Thompson Arena.
“I thought we did a really good job of keeping our composure,” Fridgen said after the game. “After the questionable call at the end, I thought we did a really nice job of killing that penalty off and staying strong.”
The Engineers (9-10-4, 3-7-3 ECAC), staying true to form, were led by the superstar Cavosie. The junior netted two goals — one in each of the first two periods — to extend his point-scoring streak to nine games and increase his league-leading season totals to 16 goals and 35 points.
More to the point, in the eyes of his coach, Cavosie provided further evidence that he is the best player in the ECAC.
“I would say so,” Fridgen said when asked if he thinks Cavosie is the ECAC’s top superstar. “Marc is a threat any time he’s out on the ice. He’s tough to get a piece of. He takes a lot of cheap shots, which I’d like to see get called at times, but he’s certainly a force to be reckoned with.”
The Big Green (9-8-4, 6-4-4 ECAC) had no answer for Cavosie through the first 39-plus minutes of play, but staged a dramatic comeback from a 2-0 deficit to forge the tie.
Dartmouth, which trailed, 2-1, entering the third period, fought back from a second-intermission deficit for the third straight game to earn a crucial point and remain in third place in the ECAC standings.
“This was a hell of a good hockey game,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “To be down 2-0 and come back says something about our team. I thought we played outstanding hockey, especially in the second half of the game. We had our ‘A’ game, from the goal on out.”
The game had swings of dominance by both teams, giving each goalie stern tests at some points and down time at others.
RPI outshot Dartmouth, 11-3, in the first 10 minutes, but could not solve Nick Boucher (33 saves) until late in the first period. Cavosie was the goal scorer, sending the puck between the pipes as he collided with a Dartmouth player in front of the net.
The Big Green held the Engineers to just one shot in the first half of the middle frame, but an undeterred RPI squad patiently waited its turn, finally forging a 2-0 advantage at the 15:53 mark when Cavosie one-timed a Carson Butterwick feed past a helpless Boucher on the power play.
“We have the two scoring leaders in the ECAC,” Fridgen said, referring to Cavosie and senior Matt Murley, “but we have to be a better team around them. At times, we’ve relied on them too much. No two guys are going to win a hockey game for us.”
Indeed, Dartmouth held Cavosie silent after the junior’s second goal and took advantage of some late-second-period chaos to ignite its comeback.
With only six seconds on the clock and RPI stretched out defensively, Chris Baldwin cradled the puck behind the net and sent it out front to a waiting Frank Nardella, who one-timed it past Nathan Marsters (40 saves) for a momentum-shifting goal.
“That goal was huge,” Gaudet said. “A two-goal deficit going into the third period is not insurmountable, but it’s very difficult because you’re one break away from the game being over.”
Nardella’s goal seemed to breathe life into the Big Green, who dominated the third period, allowing RPI nary a shot until the 11:45 mark.
Minutes earlier, meantime, Dartmouth managed to tie it up, as rookie Lee Stempniak secured the puck along the boards before dancing past defenders into the slot and punching his sixth goal through Marsters’ legs.
“Stempniak made a great play,” Gaudet said. “You could almost feel one coming. It was a really big-time play. Stemper is as good a young player as I’ve had in a long time.”
Said Stempniak: “As a team, I think we began to string good shifts together at that point in the third period. My goal was a culmination of that. It gave us some momentum, but we didn’t end up pulling off the win.”
Neither team pulled off the win, but each weathered a storm — Dartmouth the early Cavosie heroics, and RPI the Big Green power play in overtime.
The RPI test came with 2:29 left in the extra session, when Cavosie was sent to the sin bin for two minutes. That gave Dartmouth a 4-on-3 man advantage, but the Engineers survived to earn a much-needed point in the standings.
Both teams return to action Saturday night. Dartmouth will host Union, while RPI will head up icy Interstate 89 to face last-place Vermont.