HANOVER, N.H. — Mike Oulette banged in a Hugh Jessiman feed with 57.1 seconds left in the game to give Dartmouth a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Yann Danis-backed Brown Bears on Saturday evening in the Big Green’s final home game.
“Any time Jessiman and Oulette go down on a two-on-one like that, chances are nine times out of 10 they’re going to score,” reunited linemate Lee Stempniak said.
Stempniak provided the initial heroics at 15:08 with a rebound shot he managed to lift over Danis to tie the game at two. The goal was Stempniak’s 15th of the season, but first since an empty-netter at Princeton on Jan. 31.
“It was definitely a monkey off my back,” the sophomore said. “I just kept working hard and taking shots and it finally went in.”
Brown’s All-American goaltender stopped 45 Big Green shots, but could not hold off the Dartmouth attack for the final 6:56 with a one-goal lead.
The Dartmouth veterans put the team on the right foot on Senior Night, but it was a brigade of youth that did the Bears in. The game had tremendous playoff implications for both teams, as Dartmouth (15-11-1, 11-9-0 ECAC) matched Brown’s (12-11-3, 10-9-2) 22 conference points, leaving the squads in a tie for the fourth and final first-round bye.
Paul Crosty was called for holding senior Chris Hontvet at 6:15 of the first period, and Dartmouth applied so much pressure with the man-advantage that Owen Walter was forced into committing a penalty as well. The Big Green tested Danis numerous times during its precious 1:00 of 5-on-3 hockey, but could not break through.
Dartmouth’s offense was equally dominant without a result in the remaining 59 seconds with a man-advantage, at even strength and even shorthanded after Summerfelt was sent off for a hook despite Gaudet’s cry from the bench, “that was a dive!”
The Bears’ lone NHL draft pick, veteran Chris Legg, made a poor decision in his defensive zone, interfering with Marr away from the puck at 15:05. Captain Tye Korbl nearly excused his linemate, sending a shot behind Dartmouth goaltender Nick Boucher, but all the way through the crease.
Dartmouth entered the first intermission with a clear edge in intensity and shots (15-5), but without a solution to the problem Danis presented between the pipes. Kent Gillings and Mike Murray (back together on the same line) thought they had the answer to Danis: catch him while he’s looking the other way. They deked Danis and had a couple rebound opportunities with the goaltender in a daze.
At 13:58 of the second period, sophomore defenseman Gerry Burke gave Danis a lead to work with when he slipped the puck between Boucher’s pads on what looked like a harmlessly soft shot. Boucher stopped the bleeding, however, with a terrific pad save on a Brown four-on-two with just over three minutes left in the period.
Burke cost his men what he gained for them, getting whistled for holding at 17:18. Senior Trevor Byrne capitalized on the power play with a wrister that bounced off the post and past the previously infallible Danis.
The third period was similarly all-Dartmouth, as the Big Green continued to assault Danis with every sort of shot, but the nationally acclaimed goalie kept the game locked at one. Lee Stempniak was looking for gold with about 12 minutes remaining, but found iron instead when his wrister from the right side beat Danis but ricocheted off the far post.
Brown’s 20th shot appeared lethal, as Jason Wilson buried a wrister with room to spare in front of the Dartmouth net, but Stempniak answered in the clutch just over two minutes later.
“They score late like that and you think it’s over,” Gaudet said. “But our guys chipped away and came back. It would have been a shame to lose a game like that.”
Dartmouth did all that it had done all that it had done all game and more in an attempt to garner the game-winner, but it wasn’t until the Jessiman-Oulette connection that the building erupted and the Big Green sealed the game.