HANOVER, N.H. — Lee Stempniak’s three goals were all the offense Dartmouth needed to down Brown 3-1 Friday night. Junior goaltender Dan Yacey was also a key to the victory, as he made 23 saves to give the Big Green a win in its ECAC opener in front of a spirited Thomson Arena crowd.
The hat trick was Stempniak’s third of his impressive Dartmouth career. The junior right winger, a St. Louis Blues draft pick, had his last three-goal performance in an even bigger game — the rubber game of a three-game playoff series versus Colgate that put the Big Green in the ECAC Final Four last season.
His two sophomore linemates, superstar Hugh Jessiman and center Mike Ouellette, who also had a strong freshman year, complete one of the strongest groups in the ECAC. They kept the pressure on Brown’s defensemen all night and at times looked like they were playing at a different level.
Brown, coming off an upset win at Harvard in its season opener, wasted another stunning performance from its prized goaltender, Yann Danis. Danis made 33 saves and allowed just two goals — the last an empty netter, which Stempniak fired in off a behind-the-back cross-ice pass from Jessiman in the final seconds.
The Bears looked off-cue all night, making passes to no one and getting pounded all over the ice by a gritty Dartmouth team. Brown was especially slow in the neutral zone, and Dartmouth took advantage of that from the get-go.
But Brown hung in this 2-1 game until late thanks to the sharp play of Danis. It looked for a moment that the Bears would be able to tie it up on a sustained 5-on-3 chance with under five minutes to play. But the Big Green killers kept Brown from putting serious pressure on Yacey and Stempniak’s empty-netter iced the win.
“We weathered the storm there in the third on that five-on-three,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “I was happy with the effort overall tonight. I think we got better as the game went along.”
Yacey’s best saves came late in the second on a Brown power play. Brent Robinson, Brown’s leading scorer from last season, was stuffed twice on good chances close in on the cage.
Stempniak opened up the scoring 8:23 into the first period. On a cycling play out of the corner, Stempniak came flying out for an open shot which he fired stick side for the goal.
“I was thinking about going behind the net there,” Stempniak said. “But I just turned up the boards. I think a couple of the Brown guys picked each other and I came out all alone.”
The Big Green was very much in control in the first, and continued its strong play in the second. Stempniak got his second goal on the power play. Sophomore Dave Thompson took a strong shot from the center point that bounced to Stempniak on the doorstep. All he had to do then was stick it behind a helpless Danis to make it 2-0.
“After I got that second goal Jessiman called the hat trick,” Stempniak said. “He helped it out a lot with that beautiful pass across the ice to me. Coach probably wasn’t too happy about that pass at the time, though.”
The Bears answered two minutes later with a power-play goal of their own. Freshman defenseman Dylan Row slid a nice pass across the blue line to captain Scott Ford, whose one-timer Yacey got a piece of but trickled into the net.
The win was Dartmouth’s third in a row over Brown, including last year’s ECAC consolation game. They have also won four in a row at Thompson Arena against the Bears.
“They outworked us and won most of the little battles,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “When a team does that against you, they’re probably going to win.”
Saturday night Brown will look for a weekend split up the road in Vermont. Dartmouth remains at home to host Harvard, in what should be another good battle.