HANOVER, N.H. — Despite their best efforts, Dartmouth officials were unable to keep the Thompson Arena crowd from throwing tennis balls on the ice after the Big Green’s first goal on Friday night against Princeton. In the end, though, all that mattered was that after 60 minutes, game, set, and match went to … well, no one.
For the ninth time this season, a Dartmouth game ended with nothing settled, as the Big Green and Tigers skated to a 2-2 tie in front of a packed Thompson Arena. The tie moved Dartmouth into a tie with Rensselaer for fourth place in the ECAC.
“I was real happy with our effort from start to finish,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “I thought our guys played real hard, and looking around the locker room after the game, guys are sore and guys are tired, and that’s the way you should feel after playing a college hockey game.”
“They’re a tough team to play,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said of the Tigers. “Their goalie played very well, we had plenty of chances to score, and I thought our goalie played well, too. It’s a point; we’d like to have two, but it’s a big point for us in terms of just chipping away in the standings.”
Sean Offers got the scoring started 12:08 into the game, launching a shot past Princeton goalkeeper B.J. Sklapsky. At first, it seemed that the freshman netminder would be spared the traditional shower of tennis balls, but after a brief hesitation, a smaller-than-usual segment of the Thompson crowd let the balls fly.
“I had heard the horror stories about the tennis balls,” said Sklapsky of the Thompson tradition, “and I thought there would be more than that. When we came in, we saw the flyers on every second seat saying that you shouldn’t do it, but we kind of expected that it would still happen.”
As the ECAC had promised, Dartmouth was assessed a two-minute delay-of-game minor, but nothing came of it, and the Big Green took a one-goal lead into the first intermission.
Princeton tied the game back up two minutes into the second, as Matt Maglione launched a slapshot from the point that beat Dan Yacey for a power-play goal. Maglione scored on another slapshot, this one from the left face-off circle, seconds into the third period to put the visitors on top.
From there, it seemed as if a one-goal cushion was all Sklapsky would need. The freshman from Martensville, Sask., turned aside shot after shot, and it looked as if the Tigers might pull the upset.
The picture changed, however, when Dartmouth went on the power play with under five minutes to go. At that point, Dartmouth’s extra-man unit took over, peppering Sklapsky with shots. Eventually, the puck found its way to Hugh Jessiman, who leads the Big Green in power-play goals. Jessiman’s initial shot was blocked, but the Darien, Conn., native kept the puck in, dodged a defender, and launched a shot into the back of the net to tie the game and bring the crowd to life.
Exultation quickly turned to consternation, though, as one Dartmouth fan threw his soda cup onto the ice, resulting in another delay-of-game minor against the Big Green. “It’s life,” Gaudet said of the late penalty. “The fans have been good to us. It wasn’t en masse, it was just one object. I figured if we scored two goals, the [debris thrown after the] second one would be very limited, and I tried to plead with the ref, but it wasn’t going to happen.
With 2:06 to play, the Tigers took the man-advantage for one final push, and push they did, keeping the pressure on Dartmouth and making it difficult for the Big Green to clear the puck. Still, Yacey and the Big Green penalty kill didn’t budge, and for the ninth time this season, Dartmouth headed to overtime. And for the ninth time this season, another five minutes settled absolutely nothing. Dartmouth outshot Princeton 6-0 in the extra session, but Sklapsky stopped all six shots to preserve the deadlock.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” Sklapsky said of the start. “Coach gave me the chance to prove myself,, and I think I did pretty well out there. I saw the puck well, and the guys played a really great game in front of me, which made my job a lot easier.”
“I wish we scored one more goal,” Gaudet said, “but I think that’s going to be a big point for us.”
Both teams are back in ECAC action Saturday night. The Tigers head to Gutterson Field House to take on Vermont, while Dartmouth welcomes Yale to Thompson Arena.