Green Pulls Stunner: Dartmouth Wins With Three-Goal 3rd
J.S.Carras/The Record Dartmouth goaltender Charles Grant (30) makes first period save against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute during ECAC Hockey first round play-off action Sunday, March 9, 2014 at Houston Field House in Troy, N.Y..
J.S.Carras/The Record Dartmouth's Tyler Sikura (16) carries the puck into the offensive zone as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Zach Schroeder (7) defends during second period of ECAC Hockey first round play-off action Sunday, March 9, 2014 at Houston Field House in Troy, N.Y..
J.S.Carras/The Record Dartmouth's Connor Dempsey (10) knocks Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Curtis Leonard off the puck during first period of ECAC Hockey first round play-off action Sunday, March 9, 2014 at Houston Field House in Troy, N.Y..
Troy, n.y. — The Dartmouth College men’s hockey team had not won a game when trailing after two periods of play in more than two years.
No time like the present to end that ignominious slide.
The 10th-seeded Big Green used a three-goal third period to reverse a 4-2 second-intermission deficit to upset seventh-seeded Rensselaer, 5-4, on Sunday night at Houston Field House. The win gave the Big Green (10-18-4) a two-games-to-one series victory — a comeback one, too, after losing game one on Friday night — and will head to top-seeded Union on Friday to start a best-of-three league quarterfinal.
RPI’s season ends at 15-16-6. The Big Green visited the Skating Dutchmen in the quarterfinals last season, losing in two straight games.
For the second year in a row and the fifth time since 2003, the Big Green shook off a first-game loss to win a first-round series in three, accomplishing the feat last season at home against Harvard.
Brad Schierhorn completed the comeback with his eighth of the year with just 2:14 remaining in regulation on a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net.
“After it went in, I looked up at the clock to see how much time was left,” Schierhorn said in a jubilant Big Green locker room following the win. “Honestly, I just thought about how we had to kill off the rest of it and hold on. I was just so excited to be able to put the team on top after everyone worked so hard all night.”
Schierhorn’s heroics were made possible by the outstanding play of first-liners Eric Neiley, Brandon McNally and Grant Opperman early on in the third. With RPI content to dump the puck deep and hang back, the trio was able to move up the ice and attack goaltender Scott Diebold head on.
Neiley got things started with his third goal of the series at the 2:10 mark, burying a one-timer from Opperman at the top of the slot. He would then set up McNally at 8:48 with a nearly identical shot and the same result, tying the game at 4-4 and quieting the usually boisterous Rensselaer home crowd.
But it was the Schierhorn goal that proved to be the biggest factor of the night. He received a perfectly placed backhand saucer pass from Tim O’Brien between the circles and put the game-winner under the bar, punching the Big Green’s ticket to the next round of the league’s postseason tournament.
“This team has something special to it. There is no quit in any of the guys in this locker room,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said on his 55th birthday. “They wanted to go out and empty the tank in the third period.
“We came out ready to play that period, and the goals seemed to correlate with that effort. From our goalie on out, we really wanted this one, and I think it gave us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
The last time Dartmouth won a game when trailing after the second period was on Jan. 21, 2012, at Colgate. Dartmouth was down 4-1 after 40 minutes, but scored three in the third and won early in overtime that night in Hamilton.
The Big Green and Engineers combined for three goals in the first period, with RPI’s Ryan Haggerty notching his fourth of the series at 3:39 to kick things off.
O’Brien responded for the Big Green with an unassisted shorthanded breakaway tally at 6:38. His original attempt was denied by Diebold, but the winger followed his shot, knocking in the rebound from the side of the net as his momentum was carrying him below the goal line. However, the tie would not see its way to the intermission as Mike Zalewshi gave the home team a 2-1 lead with exactly four minutes remaining.
After Chris Bradley made it a 3-1 game for RPI at 15:43, the scoring floodgates appeared to open. Junior Rick Pinkston knocked home a rebound in the low slot at 18:05 to cut the deficit to just one. But just 40 seconds later, RPI winger Mark McGowan was able to squeak one between Grant’s pad and the post to once again push the lead back to two as the second period came to a close, setting up the historic final stanza.
Dartmouth was 0-for-3 on the power play in the game, but more importantly, its penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4.
Goaltender Charles Grant was part of that defensive stand, finishing the night with 35 saves, including 28 in the final two periods. Diebold had 34 at the other end of the ice, but was unable to stop the surging Dartmouth attack in the final frame, resulting in the loss.
The Big Green earned the right to play Union in the next round as the only lower seed to win a first-round series. Dartmouth is now 6-3 all-time in the deciding game of a best-of-three series.