HANOVER, N.H. — For the record, Blaise MacDonald isn’t keeping score.
The Massachusetts-Lowell coach and his Dartmouth counterpart, Bob Gaudet, go way back, to the mid-1980s to be exact, when both began their coaching careers as assistants to Brian Mason in Hanover. As head coaches in separate leagues, MacDonald and Gaudet don’t meet often, and MacDonald isn’t counting how he does against his former co-worker.
So when MacDonald’s River Hawks got the better of Gaudet’s Big Green at Thompson Arena Friday night, 4-3, the Lowell coach’s thoughts weren’t on getting the better of Gaudet. It was more about getting away with a win that MacDonald felt UML (8-5-1) didn’t necessarily deserve.
“The fact of the matter is Dartmouth thoroughly outplayed us in every aspect of the game,” said MacDonald. “We were very fortunate, opportunistic. We were able to capitalize on a couple of poor turnovers, and they went in their net. But Dartmouth outplayed us by almost an embarrassing level in all areas.”
The Big Green (4-5-1), with an offense clicking at a miniscule rate of one goal for every 20 shots per game, did something rare Friday: It rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to put UML to the test. Garret Overlock and Nick Johnson scored 2:08 apart to erase a 3-1 Lowell lead with 7:45 to play.
Dartmouth, which owns one of the nation’s best defenses, also did something uncharacteristic — a defensive-zone turnover at a lousy time. Mark Pandolfo made the Big Green pay by zipping a shot past Dartmouth netminder Dan Yacey (27 saves) from the edge of the crease with 5:44 to go for the game-winning strike.
“Being down two, it never feels good going into the third (period),” said Johnson, who scored twice on the night. “But Garret did a great job on the second goal; that gave us confidence that we could come back. Then we got another one there. We thought we were in control, but just a little lapse cost us the game.”
Ben Walter put UML on the board first at 11:28 of the first period, converting a two-on-one feed from Danny O’Brien. A Ben Lovejoy mid-air knockdown of another outlet for Walter later in the period set up Johnson’s first of the night at 17:04, as the freshman roofed a backhander past Lowell goaltender Chris Davidson (33 saves).
Bobby Robins put the visitors back up at 19:31, one-timing a Jason Tejchma feed between Yacey’s legs after another Dartmouth blue-line giveaway. Brad King made it 3-1 at 13:16 of the second for the 3-1 lead the Big Green’s rally would eventually erase.
“To be honest with you, we were pretty lucky to get the win tonight,” said Walter, whose goal — No. 16 on the season — tied him with Minnesota’s Ryan Potulny for the nation’s lead.
Lowell heads south to Boston Saturday night for a Hockey East date at Northeastern. Dartmouth has Saturday off, then entertains the U.S. Under-18 national team in an exhibition at Thompson on Sunday.
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H.