HANOVER, N.H - The top forward line of Matt Lindblad, Tyler Sikura and Dustin Walsh erupted for three goals as the Dartmouth men's hockey team staved off elimination with a 4-1 victory Saturday night at Thompson Arena, evening the first round series with Harvard at one game apiece.
A game three on Sunday at 5 p.m. from Thompson will determine which team will move on to the next round of the ECAC Hockey Tournament.
Fifth-seeded Dartmouth improved to 14-12-5 overall this season with the win, while Harvard, the league's 12-seed, drops to 10-18-3 with the game-two defeat.
"I thought it was a really good effort by the boys tonight," head coach Bob Gaudet said after the win. "I liked how well we played the entire game, battling for pucks, getting shots on net and going after rebounds.
"I thought Harvard played a solid game, but you have to give our guys credit for going out there and executing the game plan so well," the bench boss in his 16th season at the helm of his alma mater added.
Lindblad and Sikura each had a goal and two assists in the victory, while Walsh and fellow senior Mike Keenan chipped in with one marker apiece.
Big Green freshman goalie Charles Grant made 23 saves, including 12 in the final period, to earn his first career postseason win in his first playoff start.
Walsh scored his ninth of the season just 9:28 into the opening period, following his own shot and knocking in a loose puck that sat behind Harvard goaltender Raphael Girard. Sikura and Lindblad picked up assists as they worked the puck down low that set up Walsh at the halfboards for the initial look.
After Harvard's Alex Fallstrom tied the game at 1-1 midway through the second period with a power-play goal, Sikura answered back on a Dartmouth advantage just four minutes later with what proved to be the eventual game-winner.
Eric Robinson and Eric Neiley set up Sikura with two crucial plays at the blueline to keep the puck in the zone. Robinson took a hit to move the play along to Neiley who spun around, finding Sikura open in the high slot for a wrist shot that beat Girard moving post-to-post.
Keenan made it 3-1 early in the final period with his fifth of the season and the third goal in the last five games for the second-year captain. Lindblad and converted-defenseman Brett Patterson used two crisp passes in the offensive end before the puck finally settled in the back of the net thanks to Keenan's point blast through traffic.
Lindblad capped the night off with a beautiful play and determined work down low at the 15:14 mark of the third.
Sikura floated a pass out of the Big Green defensive zone to Lindblad beyond the red line. The junior winger caught the puck over his shoulder as a wide receiver in football would, only to drop it to his stick and come in on a partial break.
A quick move that drew the puck back to his backhand was at first stopped by the outstretched left pad of the Crimson netminder. However, Lindblad would not be denied, reaching back and tapping in the loose puck despite his momentum carrying him behind the net.
The 4-1 victory ensures Dartmouth will play another day as it seeks to move on to next weekend's quarterfinals and a date with defending league champion Union. A Harvard win would mean it would get top-seeded Quinnipiac next.
A decisive game three is set for Sunday at 5 p.m. at Thompson Arena.