HANOVER, N.H. — With a one-goal lead late in the third period Friday, Rensselaer had Dartmouth on the ropes. Kevin Croxton had an excellent chance to bury the Big Green when he had an open net with 4:54 left. The normally reliable sophomore forward missed. It was a fatal mistake. After Croxton’s miss, the Big Green rallied for two goals in a 2:04 span and take a 4-3 ECAC hockey victory at Thompson Arena.
“It’s certainly a tough pill to swallow at this point,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. “I thought we had them pretty much down and out, and we didn’t put them away.”
The Engineers (7-5-1 ECAC, 13-10-2) fell behind, 2-0, in the first period on goals by Mike Turner and Hugh Jessiman, the first ending goalie Nathan Marsters’ shutout streak at 149 minutes, 39 seconds. They rallied to tie the score on second period power-play goals by defensemen Brad Farynuk and Scott Basiuk.
RPI took the lead at 4:03 of the third period when defenseman Matt McNeely skated down the slot, took a pass from Conrad Barnes from behind the goal line and beat goalie Dan Yacey.
“We were just getting our shots through today,” Basiuk said. “The forwards were doing their job. It would have been nice them get goals, but they were doing their job in front screening the goalie so he wasn’t getting a good look at any of our shots.”
RPI also killed off a two-man disadvantage midway through the third. Momentum was on its side. Croxton had Yacey out of position when he took an Oren Eizenman pass in the right circle. With a wide-open net staring him in the face, Croxton hit the side of the net.
“It was a great play by Oren,” said Croxton, the team’s leading scorer with 24 points. “I missed the net on that one.”
Thirty seconds later, the Big Green came down and tied it. Tanner Glass shook off the checking of Basiuk and beat Marsters from close range.
Then at 17:40, Dan Shribman beat Basiuk and Alexander Valentin to get to the net, and then slid a shot past Marsters’ left pad.
“Those last two goals were my fault,” Basiuk said. “I can’t be stepping up and trying to catch up to the puck like that. Those are plays that I should make. I take full responsibility for those last two goals. It’s not the way I should have played them.”
Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet was thankful that Glass and Shribman, both freshmen, rallied the Big Green to victory.
“We didn’t look like we had the jump,” Gaudet said. “Then, all of a sudden, two freshmen carry the play. Tanner Glass goes around a left-handed shot [Basiuk] and somehow goes to the net. It was a pretty good play. Shribman’s goal was just a hard working goal.
“It was two freshmen that found a way. You’d think it was going to be [junior Lee] Stempniak, or [sophomore] Jessiman or [sophomore Mike] Ouellette. But it was two freshmen.”
Notebook: Kirk MacDonald assisted on all three RPI goals. He had a goal disallowed in the first period because of a high stick. MacDonald argued, however, claiming a Dartmouth defender hit the puck after he did and knocked into the net.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.