HANOVER, N.H. — Dartmouth broke its five-game winless streak — including four straight ECAC losses — and finally asserted itself against a conference opponent, using a five-goal third period to send Rensselaer packing without a point.
Freshman phenom Hugh Jessiman used an empty-netter to complete a hat trick, to go along with his helper on one of Kent Gillings’ two goals.
“I felt very good about our team all night,” head coach Bob Gaudet said after the pivotal victory. “We had to weather the storm, they were a good team. The harder you work the luckier you’re going to become.”
Nick Boucher also became the all-time winningest goalie in Dartmouth history with his 41st, breaking Gaudet’s school record.
“I felt like it was going to come,” Boucher said. “Now I just have to pad it — put some distance between me and coach,” he added with a smile.
Dartmouth came out hot in the first period. Jessiman rifled a tape-to-tape pass to Gillings, who cashed in the favor at 7:20 by one-timing it into the upper-left corner of the net. Gillings’ eighth goal was Dartmouth’s first of the weekend.
Jarret Sampson powered a shot towards the net that Jessiman craftily deflected past unsuspecting junior goaltender Nathan Marsters to give the Big Green a 2-0 lead.
The two-goal lead nearly became three when Chris Snizek took a breakaway from the blue line toward the net, but waited a bit too long to unleash the backhand.
RPI resigned itself to just icing the puck for relief from Dartmouth’s relentless offensive pressure.
Hustling to get to the puck behind the net, Jessiman turned around and nearly gave Sampson an easy one-timer, but Marsters was as surprised as any when he took the puck out of his glove.
The second period was a different story entirely. Mayhem broke out at 6:04 when Conrad Barnes knocked Boucher over, starting a melee behind the net. Barnes was subsequently tagged with two penalties, while several other roughing penalties balanced out the two sides (although RPI’s entire second line sat next to one another in the box).
The Big Green could not convert its power play, and just as the penalty boxes emptied, Jessiman was sent to fill a seat for slashing. RPI assistant captain Carson Butterwick made a game of it on the Engineers’ power play, taking the rebound of his own missed one-timer and hitting the open net.
Shortly after, some more hitting-after-the-whistle penalties were dished out, and the open ice favored Dartmouth as the home team recorded multiple quality chances and RPI struggled to clear the zone.
Once the Engineers broke loose, however, their forwards again got behind the Dartmouth defense and drew a penalty. Dartmouth lost its edge with its best defender Trevor Byrne in the box, as the Engineers’ other assistant captain, Scott Basiuk, slapped one through traffic and past Boucher.
While Dartmouth had a man advantage, Boucher had to bail his defense out with a tremendous save on a two-on-one, and followed it with two more acrobatic stops on RPI breakaways, literally the lone leg of support for the Big Green.
“Those are the times I have to come up with a big save,” Boucher said, “I think that was a turning point.”
The Engineers’ ability to consistently break away from the Big Green defense led to yet another Dartmouth penalty. However, Dartmouth dominated the offense during RPI’s man advantage.
Neither team could muster a momentum-swinger, so they took a break locked at two after two periods.
On a delayed penalty early in the third, Dartmouth hit a post, but instead settled for a two-minute advantage — and used just seven seconds of it. Lee Stempniak fired in a rebound from the left wing, 13th of the season, to put Dartmouth ahead by one.
Max Guimond, on a superb individual effort, knocked the left defender’s stick out of his way, skated across the crease and slipped a backhander behind Marsters to give Dartmouth a two-goal cushion. Guimond’s tally turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Jessiman picked up his second goal and third point by outskating two RPI defensemen and the goaltender. The phenom got to the puck off a Sampson chip and put it into a wide-open net as Marsters dove back hopelessly.
Sampson, Gillings and Jessiman — together for the first time all year — played remarkably well together. Sampson finished with four assists, while Jessiman and Gillings were both a game-high plus-four on the night.
RPI poised itself for a comeback when Kevin Croxton beat Boucher glove-side at 13:32. Boucher settled down and Dartmouth coasted the rest of the way.
Although there was no whistle when Jessiman was assaulted on his way to the net, looking for the hat trick, Gillings had his back. The co-captain knocked in a loose puck for his second of the night at 17:47 to put Dartmouth up three.
The Engineers pulled Marsters despite the insurmountable deficit, and Jessiman took advantage by picking up his hat trick at 18:45 and tying Stempniak for the team lead in goals at 13.