HANOVER, N.H. — The kids were more than all right for Rensselaer on Friday night. They were the difference in an ECAC quarterfinal upset.
Freshman Christian Morissette and Jordan Watts scored their first career goals and fellow rookie Allen York made 31 saves as the 11th-seeded Engineers surprised sixth seeded Dartmouth in overtime, 3-2, to take the first game of their best-of-three series at half-full Thompson Arena.
Watts forced overtime by beating Big Green freshman netminder Jody ONeill in traffic two minutes into the third period. Morissette, in just his fifth game for RPI (8-25-2) redirected a Jeff Foss drive at 8:49 of overtime for the game-winner.
Rensselaer can eliminate the Big Green (14-13-3) with a win on Saturday night. Dartmouth needs two straight victories to extend its season, something the Big Green hasnt done since late December.
Every team plays a different style, but the great thing about hockey is winning in the playoffs is same thing: being physical, winning puck battles, protecting your house and blocking shots, Renssselaer coach Seth Appert said. It doesnt matter; any kid thats played hockey in any country in the world knows that. Its a matter of whos going to do it.
Freshman Alex Angers-Goulet set the winning play in motion, feeding Foss at the blue line. As teammates clogged ONeills view, Foss sent an ice-level shot that caught Morissettes leg and slipped through the Dartmouth goaltenders pads.
Dartmouth never trailed until that point. Scott Fleming scored twice to give the Big Green a pair of one-goal leads, only to have the Engineers answer each time.
They played well; its just a break, Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. They got a puck to the net. We got the puck to the net and did some nice things, but they played a good game. We just gotta to continue to try and battle and play hard and learn from it.
Fleming got Dartmouth started at 3:54, taking a pass from a falling Adam Estoclet and beating York from the inside right circle. Seth Klerer leveled for the Engineers at 13:33, catching the Big Green defense too far forward and getting enough space on the counterattack to put a 20-footer past ONeill.
Fleming again put the Big Green in the lead at 7:09 of the second. ONeill stopped RPI freshman Josh Rabbani to kill a 4-on-2 break, and Dartmouths Rob Pritchard took the ensuing rebound and sent Fleming on a rush, resulting in his own 20-foot wrist shot past Allens right arm.
Watts forced overtime at 2:13 of the third stanza, chasing a loose puck, wheeling around low-slot traffic and tucking a wrister under the crossbar behind ONeill (33 saves).
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.