February, the so-called month of love, has shown no affection for the men’s hockey team, which — after two road losses — is 1-5 in the last three weeks.
The Bulldogs (12-15-0, 10-10-0 ECAC) dropped into a tie with Harvard (11-13-3, 9-9-2) for sixth place in the conference after two losses, 4-2 to the University of Vermont (8-19-4, 6-13-1) and 6-3 to Dartmouth (11-7-9, 9-4-7), this weekend. The Elis have lost three consecutive games.
“It was definitely a tough week for us,” captain Vin Hellemeyer ’04 said. “We had a couple opportunities there in both games where, if we would have just connected on our chances on the power play, the game might have changed directions a bit.”
Yale’s power-play was abysmal, going 0-10 in the two games. The Bulldogs have scored 17 power-play goals all season, the second fewest in the ECAC.
“I guess when you get into situations like this when we have not been having much success on the power play, everyone [starts] to press,” said winger Joe Zappala ’06, Yale’s leading scorer with 29 points. “We are looking for the perfect play instead of getting back to the basics and getting the puck to the net.”
The low point of the Elis’ man advantage futility came in the closing minutes of Saturday’s loss to the Big Green. Down 5-3, the Elis had a two-man advantage following Grant Lewis and Sean Offers penalties.
Yale head coach Tim Taylor pulled goalie Matt Modelski ’07 to give Yale a 6-3 advantage, but the Bulldogs could not find the net.
The Elis dug themselves into a hole that they never quite got out of.
Falling behind 3-0 at 1:06 into the second period on a Mike Ouelette goal, the Elis rallied with goals from wingers Christian Jensen ’06 and Mike Klema ’04.
Just 58 seconds after Ouelette’s goal, center Ryan Steeves ’04 found Jensen in the slot and slid him a pass, and the Conn. native fired one past Dartmouth goalie Dan Yacey.
“[Steeves] and I usually guess where each other are,” said Jensen, who played on Steeves’ line last season. “He didn’t know for sure that I was there, but we’re used to playing with each other.”
After playing with Zappala and Jeff Hristovski ’06 most of the season, Steeves switched places with Hellemeyer for this game, joining up with Jensen and Brad Mills ’07.
“Coach [Taylor] is trying to shake things up to get us to play better,” Jensen said. “We still didn’t do as well as should have.”
The third line pulled Yale within one at 6:28 of the middle frame, when Murphy cut the Big Green lead to one entering the final period.
Hellemeyer tied the game with a howitzer that beat Yacey at 4:02, but Dartmouth winger Hugh Jessiman squashed the rally with his 15th goal of the year just 49 seconds later.
“One positive is that we were down 3-0 and we fought our way back and if we had just kept going a little harder we might have come out of there with a win,” Hellemeyer said. “But, we can take the first half of that game as a little bit of a positive — we never gave up we fought our way back and we scratched and clawed and tied it up against a pretty good team.”
Two Big Green power-play goals put the game out of reach for Yale.
Yacey finished the game with 25 saves, while Modelski, making his first regular season since start since Dec. 28, 2003, stopped 31.
“I feel like both [Yale goaltenders] did a great job,” Jensen said. “We can’t put any blame on either of the goaltenders. It was really the team defense.”
In goal Friday night, it was Catamount netminder Travis Russell who made the difference in front of a sold-out crowd at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The sophomore goalie, last week’s Inside College Hockey Player of the Week, made 30 saves.
Russell frustrated the Bulldogs in the opening twenty minutes, turning away all 13 Eli shots.
Mills gave Yale a 1-0 lead at 15:46 of the second period, but UVM answered back, tying the game with 32 seconds left in the period on a Scott Mifsud goal.
Catamount forward Jeff Miles helped put Vermont on top, assisting on BradyÊLeisenring’s goal at 5:03 and beating Yale goaltender Josh Gartner ’06 on the man advantage at 11:56 for what proved to be the game winner.
Jensen brought Yale within one, getting past three Catamount defenders on his way to the net, where he cut in front of Yacey and put the puck past him, but it was too little too late. Chris Myers scored an empty netter with 12 seconds left in the game to seal the win.
The two losses dropped Yale out of contention for a first round bye and home ice advantage in the ECAC quarterfinals.
After four consecutive road games, the Bulldogs return to Ingalls Rink for their final regular season games when they host Union (12-15-5, 6-11-3) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (17-13-2, 11-8-1). Friday’s game against the Dutchmen will be a potential first round playoff preview.
“The league is so tight,” Jensen said. “We swept the team that’s in first place. We’ve split with the teams in last and second to last. I think it’s really important to put in a good weekend.”
News and Notes: With the ECAC playoffs less than two weeks away, no team has emerged as the favorite. Nationally ranked No. 13 Brown (14-8-5, 12-6-2), which had been sitting in first place for most of the season, is winless in its last four games and slipped to second behind Colgate (18-9-5, 13-5-2). The Crimson were a preseason pick for the conference title, but have struggled and been inconsistent all year. Vermont, who entered last weekend in the ECAC basement, is riding a four game winning streak, but could get a rude awakening when it faces the Bears and Cantabs this weekend. In Burlington Friday night, Vermont honored former coach Mike Gilligan. In 26 years of coaching, he amassed an astonishing 419 victories, including a stint as Yale’s interim head coach in 1983-84 while Taylor coached the U.S. Olympic team.
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