HANOVER, N.H. — It was a long time coming, but Dartmouth finally got payback for 1993.
At 14:15 of the second overtime, the Big Green’s Pete Summerfelt unleashed a shot from the top of the left circle that sailed past David Cann and sneaked inside the far post, giving his team a 5-4 ECAC playoff win over Colgate Friday night at Thompson Arena in the longest game in school history.
“I’m just really happy it’s over,” Summerfelt said after his first goal since Jan. 25 ended the double-overtime thriller. “It seemed like they were blocking everything tonight. Finally, I got a wrist shot through. I’m just really happy it went in.”
The classic game lasted 94 minutes and 15 seconds, surpassing the previous high from almost nine years ago to the day, when Colgate topped Dartmouth in 87:16 to win a playoff game on March 9, 1993.
This time, Summerfelt’s goal lifted the Big Green (13-12-5) to victory, giving them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three first-round series.
The teams will play game two Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET. The winner will move on to the ECAC Final Five in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“It was a classic,” a relieved Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “It was just a great hockey game. It’s one of those games where it’s a shame that somebody has to lose. Summer came up with a great goal.”
Dartmouth’s thrilling win was the culmination of a wild night in which the Big Green came back from three separate deficits.
In the first period, Colgate (13-18-2) took a 2-0 lead, but Dartmouth stormed back. Early in the third period, the Raiders claimed a 3-2 lead, but a Mike Maturo goal got the Big Green even again.
Then, with 44.2 seconds left, Colgate’s Adam Mitchell scored, seemingly sealing a Raider win.
But with their goaltender pulled, the Big Green men wowed the crowd of 2,308 with yet another game-tier, as Kent Gillings sent a tape-to-tape pass to Lee Stempniak, who took his time before flipping his 11th of the year past Cann to make it 4-4 with only 14.7 seconds remaining.
“With 40 seconds remaining and a faceoff at center ice, there was just a feeling on the bench that we were going to get it done,” Gaudet said. “The guys did it. It’s a huge win for us.”
For the Raiders, the loss represented the second time in two trips to Thompson Arena that they have come away feeling shellshocked.
On Feb. 16, Colgate took a 3-2 lead with 3:58 remaining when Darryl McKinnon scored. But the Big Green netted two goals in the final two minutes, including Herrington’s game-winner with 15 seconds left, to win.
This time, Colgate was less than 20 seconds from victory, but Dartmouth did it again.
“These are two very evenly-matched teams,” Colgate head coach Don Vaughan said. “We knew that coming in. It was probably a very fitting way for the game to play out.”
Of the 75 best-of-three series in ECAC history, the game one winner has gone on to win the series 69 times (a .920 success rate) and sweep the series 58 times (.773).
Still, with the way the game played out Friday night, Vaughan knows this series could come down to the wire.
“I don’t think the game tomorrow night will play out any differently,” the coach said. “I think it’ll be close, hard checking and will probably come down to a bounce of the puck. We’ll be ready.”
The game got off to a rousing start for Colgate.
The Raiders stormed to a 2-0 lead in the opening 13 minutes, lighting the lamp on a Bob Vandersluis rebound goal through netminder Dan Yacey’s legs at 4:58 and a Joey Mormina liner from outside the right circle at 12:22.
At that point, the Raiders had a 2-0 lead and were feeling confident.
Dartmouth, meantime, was frazzled. Gaudet took a gamble and started Yacey in net. Yacey came into the weekend with all of three career appearances and had not played since Jan. 11, but Gaudet started him on a hunch.
The move didn’t work, as Colgate connected on two of its first seven shots and Yacey was replaced with sophomore Darren Gastrock after Mormina’s long-distance goal.
After the early jitters, the Big Green erased the deficit in a hurry.
Jamie Herrington scored off a pass from Stempniak at 15:05 to make it 2-1. Only three minutes and 32 seconds later, defenseman Brian Van Abel lofted a shot from the blue line that caromed off a Colgate defender and ruffled the back of the net.
Just like that, the 2-0 deficit disappeared.
“We had a rough start,” Van Abel said. “They got two quick goals on us. At that point, you just have to keep shooting and hope it goes in. Mine was just a lucky goal. We got the bounce and it helped us.”
After Van Abel’s goal, Thompson Arena suddenly went dark, as all but the emergency lights went out when a switch was mistakenly flipped. Because the main lights require several minutes to heat up, the teams went to their locker rooms at that point.
Following the break, the teams played the final 1:23 of the first period, switched ends and then skated a penalty-filled but scoreless middle frame.
Colgate reclaimed the lead at 10:27 of the third frame, as Brad D’Arco redirected a Mormina pass on a power play.
But Dartmouth responded only 33 seconds later, as Maturo crashed the net and put back a Gillings attempt to record his first goal since Jan. 25 and make it 3-3.
The teams traded goals for third time in the final minute.
The Raiders appeared to have the game locked up when Mitchell raced across the blueline, beat a defender and poked his fourth of the year inside the far post with 44.2 seconds remaining. Mitchell danced to center ice and demonstrably pumped his fist, celebrating as if the game was won.
But a beautiful series of passes made a third Big Green comeback a reality, as Herrington fed the puck across the blue line to Gillings, who found Stempniak in the slot.
Stempniak’s 11th of the year set up the memorable bonus minutes.
Nearly 95 minutes of game time after the opening faceoff, Gillings sent a perfect pass to Summerfelt, who finally ended it.
“You don’t want to play five periods of hockey and come out with a loss,” Summerfelt said. “We should have some momentum tomorrow because of this. Right now, we just have to get ready.”