DENVER – Down three goals after the first period to the defending champion and second-ranked team in the nation? No problem.

That’s what the Dartmouth men’s hockey team managed to do on Saturday night at Magness Arena against No. 2 Denver, erasing a 3-0 first-period deficit to win, 5-4.

Freshman Collin Rutherford scored the first goal of his career with 1:37 remaining in regulation to put the Big Green (3-8-1) on top for the first time all night. An empty-net goal followed and then a late Pioneers’ (10-4-4) marker, but the final scoreboard showed a 5-4 victory for the visiting team at the end of 60 minutes.

It marked the first Dartmouth win against Denver in seven all-time meetings dating back to 1954.

“There was no quit in this team all weekend, but especially tonight,” head coach Bob Gaudet ’81 said. “During the first intermission, we didn’t have to say much to the team. The guys in the room started talking about winning battles and winning shifts and that’s just what they went out and did.

“This was a big weekend for us,” Gaudet added. “We played so well in both games. Buff (Devin Buffalo) was huge both nights, our defense did everything we asked of them and the forwards scored goals, which was key for us against a great team like Denver.”

Kohen Olischefski scored the first two goals of his career in the opening frame, sandwiching a Troy Terry score as the Pioneers jumped all over the Big Green early. The first Olischefski tally and the following Terry marker both came on the man-advantage.

Down 3-0, the visitors rebounded in a big way in the middle period with the Colorado connections coming up huge for Dartmouth.

Former Colorado Springs resident and Colorado Rampage (Junior AAA) player Cam Strong scored his first goal of the season on a redirect at the top of the blue paint at 3:06. Will Graber — a native of Broomfield, Colorado, a suburb of Denver — followed with a wrap-around goal just 70 seconds later.

Shane Sellar’s first goal of the season came on a shot from behind the goal line and in the corner. It hit the back of All-American netminder Tanner Jaillet and trickled over the line for the equalizer.

After Rutherford’s goal, Sellar was credited with an empty netter, giving him the first two-goal game of his career. The goal would prove to be the game winner as Jack Doremus found the back of the net with 26 seconds left to pull Denver to within one, 5-4.

The backbone of the win and of the entire series was senior netminder Devin Buffalo who stopped 38 shots Saturday in the winning effort. Kevin Neiley posted his second career three-assist game with the third coming on the Rutherford goal along with Strong for his first multi-point contest of the season.

Denver took the opener on Friday night, 1-0, with Saturday’s result giving the Green and White the well-deserved split.

The game also marked the first time Dartmouth had defeated a team ranked second through fifth since Dec. 30, 2012 when the 10th-ranked Big Green took down No. 2 New Hampshire, 4-1, at Thompson Arena.

Dartmouth players now head home for winter break before returning to host the 29th Annual Ledyard Classic at Thompson Arena on Dec. 29-30. The Big Green plays UNH and Minnesota Duluth at 7 p.m. both nights with Yale playing the earlier game against the same two teams on alternating days. Tickets are available through the Dartmouth Ticket Office online or by calling 603-646-2466.