With a 5-2 win against Union Dec. 8 and a 4-2 loss to Rensselaer Dec. 7, the men’s ice hockey team now is in the midst of a 20-day layoff as their ECAC counterparts play catch-up.
The Bulldogs (4-5-2, 4-4-2 ECAC) found most of their offense from winger Ryan Steeves ’04 and captain Luke Earl ’02 against RPI (5-5-1, 2-2-1 ECAC) and Union (4-5-3, 1-3-1 ECAC). The duo combined for six of the Elis’ 15 points on the weekend. At the other end of the ice, goalie Dan Lombard ’02 saved 57 of 63 shots on the weekend with a first period performance against Union that was responsible for keeping the Bulldogs in the game.
“[Lombard] is the backbone of our team,” said Steeves, who was the ECAC Star of the Game against Union. “When he’s playing well, we’re playing well.”
The most impressive performance of the weekend, however, did not belong to a player in blue. Engineers winger Marc Cavosie recorded his second hat trick of the season and his first in league play.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” head coach Tim Taylor said. “We knew we had to be on our toes when he was on the ice.”
Coming off their loss to Rensselaer, the Bulldogs were in desperate need of two points to stay close to the top of the ECAC rankings. The Elis never looked back after opening the second period with a three goal spurt in less than four minutes that saw Dutchmen goalie Kyle Loney replace goalie Brandon Snee. Snee allowed three goals on six shots before Loney replaced him 3:25 into the second period.
Mike Klema ’04 scored the second goal of the Elis’ second period spurt, the team’s third of the night and what proved to be the game winner. Klema’s 15-foot wrister from the right circle traveled between Snee’s legs and into the net.
Less than a minute before Klema, Steeves got his second goal of the season when winger Evan Wax ’03 lost the puck as he charged toward the net. Steeves corralled the loose puck and beat Snee low to the glove side 2:39 into the second period. Two minutes after Klema’s goal, it was a different goalie but the same result when Steeves stole the puck from a Dutchmen defenseman along the boards behind the net and beat Loney stick side for his second goal of the night.
Steeves, who was a game time decision a week ago with a hip flexor injury, is now tied with winger Chris Higgins ’05 for the team lead in goals.
“[Steeves] is just beginning to realize what he can do at the Division I level,” Taylor said. “He’s always been a strong scorer.”
The Elis notched their first score of the contest in the first period on the power play when Earl’s failed wraparound attempt squirted out from the crease to winger Nick Deschenes ’03, who backhanded the puck past Snee. The power-play goal marked the fifth consecutive game in which the Elis’ first score has come from special teams.
Defenseman Jeff Dwyer ’04 sealed the win for the Elis with an empty net goal with less than three minutes to go in the third period.
Against RPI, the scoring roles were reversed for the Bulldogs. The Elis managed only two goals in a physical contest Friday night.
“We got bounced around a lot against RPI,” Taylor said. “I don’t think we were ready to play a physical game.”
Much of the Engineers’ physical play was geared toward the top line of Higgins, Deschenes and Earl, who are the top three point scorers on the team.
“They probably played a lot more exclusively for us,” Higgins said. “I think they definitely had us in mind.”
The Bulldogs opened the second period with an offensive burst. Trailing 1-0, the Bulldogs were still killing off defenseman Greg Boucher’s ’03 holding penalty when center Spencer Rodgers ’02 controlled the opening draw and found a streaking Earl, who beat RPI goalie Nathan Marsters with a wrister high to the glove side six seconds into the period.
Less than 11 minutes later, the offensive flood gates opened. Working behind Marsters, winger Nathan Murphy ’04 got the puck to Steeves, who turned and let loose a shot that beat Marsters low to the glove side to put the Bulldogs ahead 2-1 10:46 into the second period.
In a period where three goals were scored in one minute, the Bulldogs’ lead lasted 13 seconds. On what would be one of many odd-man rushes for RPI that night, winger Carson Butterwick beat Lombard low to the glove side from the left circle.
“We were real excited to be ahead after not playing so well,” Higgins said. “It was frustrating when they came right back.”
Less than a minute later, Cavosie notched his second goal of the night when winger Ryan Shields found Cavosie on a nice pass through the slot with no Elis in sight. Cavosie one-timed the puck past a lunging Lombard.
RPI’s third goal of the night came on yet another odd-man rush.
“For a brief period of time, we were out of sync, and they managed to exploit that,” Taylor said. “It was very disappointing.”
Cavosie completed the hat trick when he muscled past the Bulldog defense and deked Lombard to beat the Eli netminder with a backhand low to the glove side.
Although the Bulldogs are now second in the ECAC, the Elis have played more games than any of their conference foes. The Bulldogs will not play again until they travel to Duluth, Minn., for the Silverado Shootout Dec. 28.
The Bulldogs’ first opponent in the Shootout is the home team, Minnesota-Duluth. Taylor knows the Bulldogs’ trip out west will bring more of the physical play they experienced against RPI.
“We can’t let somebody else’s game plan neutralize us,” Taylor said.