HANOVER, N.H. — Nathan Marsters’ first win at Thompson Arena could hardly have come at a better time for Rensselaer.
The senior from Grimsby, Ont., stopped 31 Dartmouth shots as the Engineers got their first win at Dartmouth since 1998, taking Game 1 of a best-of-three against the Big Green, 3-1.
“It’s nice,” Marsters said of the breakthrough win. “Anytime you’ve won a game in the playoffs, it’s a nice thing. It’s my least favorite place to play, but it’s not like it changes the game. It’s still hockey.”
The first period featured solid hockey on both ends, with both teams getting multiple scoring chances. However, the Engineers were first to make good, as sophomore Kirk McDonald took a shot from the middle of the zone that found its way between Dan Yacey’s pads with less than a minute to play, giving RPI a 1-0 lead at the first intermission.
Dartmouth turned up the pressure in the second, but a penalty to Hugh Jessiman cost the Big Green, as Engineers captain Scott Basiuk found the back of the net with a shot from the blueline that pushed the RPI lead to 2-0 midway through the period.
Meanwhile, Marsters remained solid in net, stopping all 22 shots he faced in the first two frames, and Dartmouth headed to the second intermission looking to erase a two-goal deficit.
Dartmouth broke through with a power-play tally five minutes into the third period, as Mike Ouellette backhanded the puck over Marsters’ stick off a pass from Lee Stempniak to bring the Thompson Arena crowd to life.
The goal energized the Big Green as well, and the puck began to spend more and more time in RPI’s zone. The increased pressure brought the puck to the doorstep, but Marsters insisted that it go no further.
“There was a lot of pressure there,” said Marsters. “Our D-men did a really good job clearing pucks and blocking shots, and keeping their guys contained. You’ve got to give those guys credit there.”
With 1:05 and a faceoff in the Dartmouth zone, Yacey headed to the bench. Eight seconds later, he was back, courtesy of an empty-net goal by Nick Economakos that closed the scoring.
“We knew that they were going to throw everything at us,” said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. “I thought we did a really good job of keeping our composure, and Nate was there for us.”
The Engineers will be looking to finish the series and advance to the ECAC semifinals, while Dartmouth will be out to force a third game as the Big Green and Engineers face off again Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Thompson Arena.