HANOVER, N.H. — Dartmouth battled Princeton to a nearly-bitter end for a 3-2 victory, extending the Big Green’s winning streak to four games.
“It was really a war of attrition,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “They’re a really tough, physical team and their defense really jammed it up.”
The war had its casualties as well, as Chris Snizek left the game with an ankle injury for the Big Green and Princeton’s Jesse Masear was roughed up in the corner and had to be carried off the ice. Other players on both sides were banged up along the way.
It was Dartmouth’s most injury-plagued player who made the difference, as senior co-captain Kent Gillings rocketed a slapshot past Tiger goaltender Trevor Clay at 3:19 of the third period.
“It feels great,” Gillings said, “I’ve had a lot of chances but the puck didn’t really go my way. It’s great, especially since we’ve had a lot of trouble against Princeton, especially here at Thompson.”
The eventual game-winner was the expected scoring leader’s first goal since Nov. 2 at Merrimack.
Dartmouth is a perfect 5-0 at Thompson Arena this season and improved its current record to 5-3-0 and 4-2-0 in the ECAC. Princeton, meanwhile, dropped to 1-7-0 and 1-5-0 in the ECAC.
“We’re finding a way right now to give away games; we haven’t found a way to win games,” Princeton head coach Len Quesnelle said. “Tonight was a step in the right direction from an effort standpoint.”
Dartmouth’s sophomore sensation, Lee Stempniak, entered the game as the top-ranked goal scorer in Division I men’s hockey and the ECAC leader in point scoring. Princeton, however, found a way to contain Stempniak and his productive linemates, freshmen Hugh Jessiman and Mike Ouelette.
Big Green senior Mike Murray wasted no time in provoking a downpour of tennis balls from the Thompson Arena faithful. Murray banged a quick pass from Eric Przepiorka into the back of the net at 3:07 in the first period.
With just under six minutes left in the first period, third-line center Max Guimond sparked an aftershock of tennis balls with his first collegiate goal. Guimond finished a breakaway opportunity with a five-hole backhander. Pete Summerfelt was credited his team-leading 10th assist.
“I was waiting for that,” Guimond said, “I was very happy to break the ice.”
The goal gave Dartmouth an early two-goal lead, but also resulted in one of Dartmouth’s two crowd-induced delay-of-game penalties. Though the Tigers could do nothing in either of their two power plays, they did not go quietly into the break.
Princeton assistant captain Scott Prime slipped through and beat Darren Gastrock with just 22.1 seconds left in the first. No more surprise attacks ensued, and Dartmouth brought a slim 2-1 lead into the locker room.
Princeton got a rare four-on-three opportunity early in the second period, a legitimate chance to even the score of the early Dartmouth-dominated affair. The Tigers couldn’t convert, but kept the Big Green from extending their lead with two subsequent penalty kills.
As Dartmouth’s control of the game was slipping, its lead followed suit. Princeton freshman Dustin Sproat took advantage of the Big Green’s fading intensity, making the score 2-2 with his second goal of the season.
Dartmouth couldn’t find the resiliency to answer the Tigers’ roar as the team had done so well against Yale the night before, and the score remained even heading into the second intermission.
Gillings opened up the third with his blast and Dartmouth remained in control until the 59th minute.
Princeton pulled Clay for the extra man and crashed the net with a minute left, almost sending the game into overtime. Gastrock made a tremendous save by diving back across an open net and raising his glove while sprawled out on the ice to catch the puck, sealing the win.
The Big Green will look to draw from all aspects of its offense when the team hosts Boston College on Tuesday at Thompson Arena. Princeton will take on Yale on Tuesday.