HANOVER, N.H — Get past the first three teams in the ECAC Hockey League standings, and the crystal ball is either broken or in need of some serious Windex.
Dartmouth and Rensselaer didn’t do much to clarify the playoff situation last night, but the Big Green did do a couple of things that have been lacking of late.
Goalie Mike Devine made the big stops when needed and Dartmouth answered with a three-goal flourish in the third period for a 5-2 win at Thompson Arena that kept the Big Green (10-9-3 overall, 6-6-3 league) within eyeshot of the ECACHL’s top four teams.
“It was a pretty big win,” said Johnson, whose goals were only his second and third since Thanksgiving weekend. “We’ve got to play a little better than that, for the most part. They are a good team, but they were getting some good chances.”
When it mattered most, Devine (31 saves) was stopping them.
The junior never trailed, and was tied just once after J.T. Wyman’s goal in the last 89 seconds of the first period put the Big Green up, 1-0. Reed Kipp leveled for RPI (8-12-7 overall, 4-7-4 league) at 2:15 of the second, but Kevin Swallow’s crease jam past Engineer netminder Jordan Alford (24 saves) just 41 seconds later took the wind out of the visitors’ sails.
Despite a solid offensive effort, RPI never closed the gap again.
“We don’t have a lot of natural goal-scoring ability,” first-year coach Seth Appert said.
“We have to work hard for our goals; we have to go to the net, hammer some rebounds in and get some nasty ones. We created plenty enough chances to score, and got Devine down in some positions where we need to be able to finish.”
Appert credited Devine with the win, and the second period was the Big Green junior’s canvas. He made fine saves on four different RPI opportunities, and was also the beneficiary of an Andrei Uryadov misfire with 4:45 left, the Russian sophomore stubbing a Jake Morissette pass wide of a yawning net.
Ben Lovejoy re-established the two-goal lead with a power-play howitzer at 5:07 of the third. The Engineers’ Jonathan Ornelas cut the gap to one with 6:19 to go, but Nick Johnson hit a counterattack bullet over Alford’s glove at 18:36 and picked the empty net at 19:45 to clinch the victory.
Dartmouth, still two points behind fourth-place Cornell in the league chase, entertains Union tonight. Rensselaer, now 10th in the standings, heads to Harvard this evening.
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.