HANOVER, N.H. — The Union Dutchmen came into Hanover and broke both a tie for sixth place in the ECAC and Dartmouth’s home-ice advantage.
The Dutchmen scrapped out two goals on rebounds while freshman goaltender Kris Mayotte locked up the net for his second shutout of the season with 31 saves.
“We didn’t score,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said repeatedly. “We had chances and we worked hard. Sometimes it’s just the shape of the puck that breaks the game.”
Senior Nick Boucher was back in the net for the Big Green with a chance to break Gaudet’s school wins record. Although he entered the game at the bottom of the ECAC in goals against average and save percentage, Boucher made 30 saves and was named the second star of the game, behind Mayotte.
After Chris Hontvent was sent off for tripping in the first period — one of Dartmouth’s six first-period infractions — Scott Seeney put Union on the board when he put a loose puck in the back of the net.
Sophomore winger Max Seel was looking to strike gold, but found only iron instead when he rifled a point-blank shot past Boucher and off the post.
The Dartmouth power-play unit looked uncomfortable, possibly with lingering confidence issues after last Saturday’s failed two-minute, two-man advantage against Vermont. Dartmouth recorded a power-play goal in that match, but struggled to get shots on net.
The bigger problem against Union was the penalty kill — less its efficacy, and more its inability to get off the ice.
“We had a lot of good scoring opportunities early,” Union head coach Kevin Sneddon said. “If we had capitalized on a few of those, it would have taken some of the pressure off.”
Dartmouth spent four straight minutes with four men on the ice and without star forward Lee Stempniak, who was called for roughing and then served a roughing minor for Boucher.
Jarret Sampson gave the Dutchmen 1:43 of five-on-three play when he sent a pile into the net with a charge. However, it only served to wake up Boucher and the Dartmouth crowd as the time expired on both penalties.
After an ugly first period: Dartmouth 6, Union 3 — in penalties — Union took its one-goal lead into the locker room.
Dartmouth looked good on its first power-play attempt in the second frame, but Boucher was called for his second penalty of the game, negating Dartmouth’s advantage.
The Big Green’s next power play turned into a disaster when Union applied some shorthanded pressure. Kris Goodjohn tipped in a puck that Boucher seemed to have under his control to give the Dutchmen an unexpected 2-0 lead.
At the end of 40 minutes, memory conjured up an image of last year’s Dartmouth-Union matchup at Thompson Arena. In that match, the Dutchmen took a 2-0 lead into the third period only to have Kent Gillings score two before Stempniak fired in the game winner.
“You bet your bottom dollar I didn’t talk about it between the second and the third, but I did at the end of the game,” Sneddon said.
“We knew Dartmouth was going to keep coming at us.”
Dartmouth’s power play showed some life and gave the team a chance to repeat last year’s miraculous comeback, but Mayotte was too much. The freshman netminder came up with a save on a point-blank one-timer and a subsequent sprawling glove save on the rebound.
Boucher, true to form, did not allow a third-period goal. When Pete Summerfelt jumped out of the box, the Big Green was left with just under seven minutes to try to claw its way back.
With just under six minutes, Union took an ill-advised boarding penalty, but Dartmouth let its last chance slip through its fingers.
Mayotte, clearly unconscious, robbed Trevor Byrne when the Dartmouth captain walked in uncontested and went to the backhand.
With two minutes remaining, it became apparent that the Thompson fort had finally collapsed. The 3,159 in attendance barely made a sound as the structure crumbled to the icy ground all around them.
The Dutchmen took a hard-earned victory lap amid the rubble.