HANOVER, N.H. — In Game 1 between Dartmouth and Rensselaer at Thompson Arena, the story was the Engineers’ Nathan Marsters, who made 33 saves in a 3-1 RPI win. In Game 2, it was the Big Green’s Dan Yacey, who stopped 33 shots in a 6-0 Dartmouth shutout that tied the series at one apiece.
So, who was it in game 3?
You could say both, as the two netminders combined for 67 saves on 68 shots. You could say neither, as Dartmouth’s Eric Przepiorka had the 68th shot, which found the net 21 seconds into the third period to lift Dartmouth to a 1-0 victory.
But no matter whose story it was, it ends with the Big Green living happily ever after … until Friday, when Dartmouth makes its fourth straight appearance at the ECAC championship.
“I’m proud of the effort,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “I thought we beat a really good team that played real good hockey. We’re battle-tested, and now it’s just trying to take the next step.”
“Good, solid playoff hockey — we just grinded it out,” said Yacey, who made 32 saves — including 14 in the third period — for his second consecutive shutout, and third in his last five games.
“The shutout is only secondary to the win. It isn’t solely attributed to me. I’ve got to thank the D for letting me see the puck, clearing the pucks. There were a couple of close ones. It’s just a good tribute to how hard we work.”
“I give the guys a lot of credit,” said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen, whose Engineers saw their season end in the fourth playoff meeting between these teams in the last five years. “Every guy that dressed played their heart out. I thought we did a real good job of putting last night behind us, coming out, and I thought at times we really took the play to them. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get the puck by the goaltender.”
Both teams came out hungry but controlled, with neither team wanting to be first to make a mistake. There were no costly mistakes in the first period, though, as Marsters and Yacey made 14 and eight saves, respectively, to keep the score game scoreless at the first intermission.
The Engineers outshot Dartmouth in the middle stanza by a slim 11-10 margin, but save for a Brad Farynuk shot that hit the Dartmouth crossbar, Yacey and Marsters kept the game in control, not to mention scoreless. With 20 minutes to play, someone’s season was headed for a heartbreaking ending. The only question was whose.
21 seconds later, Przepiorka had the answer.
“Tanner Glass got the puck from Sean Offers,” Przepiorka said of the decisive play. “He made a great bounce pass up the boards, and I was coming in. The defense over-committed, so I slid it in between his legs, and put it backhand on the short side, and it went in.”
From there, the Engineers began to play desperate hockey, keeping the puck in Dartmouth’s end, while Dartmouth clung to the lead. With 1:22 to play, Marsters headed to the bench for the last time as an Engineer, and his team made one final push to tie.
Dartmouth was unable to hit the empty net, with one attempt to clear striking the outside of the post. The Big Green was forced to play defense right up until the final buzzer, but when that buzzer sounded, the Thompson Arena crowd had plenty to cheer about.
“We’re such a simple team,” Gaudet said, “and I’m really a simple guy. We’ve just got to play one shift at a time. It’s a young team, and what I’ve found is that our best bet is to just focus on the game, focus on the period, focus on the shift, and play hard.”
With the win, Dartmouth advances to “play hard” at the ECAC championship at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y. The Big Green will take on Harvard on Friday at 7:45 p.m., with the winner moving on to the title game against the winner of Clarkson and Colgate, who play on Friday at 4:30.