Trailing 2-0 in the first period of the final home game of his career Saturday night, men’s hockey captain Nick Shalek ’05 desperately raced into the offensive zone. His linemates, fellow senior C.J. Nibbe ’05 and the workmanlike Robert Burns ’07, filed in behind him, punching the clock and crashing the net. The lunch-pail line featured no flash, finesse or fanciness, but they delighted the Ingalls crowd with a whole lot of grit.
After more than a minute of hard-grinding in the Dartmouth corners, Nibbe intercepted a breakout pass and slapped it to Burns, the last man left in the zone. All alone with goalie Dan Yacey, the lefty deked to his forehand and lifted the puck above Yacey’s shoulder for the Elis’ first goal of the night. The Bulldogs went on to lose, 5-3, but Burns’ goal was the first sign of life all weekend from a Yale team that had been embarrassed 5-0 by Vermont Friday night.
Goalie Josh Gartner ’06 said the Elis never seemed to get their bearings in the Vermont game.
“We weren’t getting to loose pucks and we weren’t winning the little battles out there tonight,” Gartner, who relieved starter Matt Modelski ’07, said Friday night. “Those things snowballed during the course of the game and you can see it on the score-sheet.”
Center Nate Jackson ’06, who contributed to a meager shot total that did not reach double-digits until late in the third period, was less sympathetic to his team’s plight.
“I can only imagine paying 12 bucks to watch us play a game like that,” Jackson said.
Yale continued its lethargic play until the Burns goal woke them up late in the first period against Dartmouth.
“We have a trait as a team of waiting around to see how a game is going to shape up instead of dictating play,” head coach Tim Taylor said.
Immediately following Burns’ tally, a back-checking David Germain ’08 tenaciously broke up a Dartmouth two-on-one with a last-second dive.
Though playing without leading scorers Brad Mills ’07 (knee) and Christian Jensen ’06 (concussion) and defenseman Shawn Mole ’07 (foot), Yale continued to dictate the pace of the game until defenseman Chris Brooks ’06 was whistled for interference at 14:11. On the ensuing power play, Dartmouth’s star freshman Nick Johnson beat Gartner for his 13th goal of the season. It was the only shorthanded goal Yale yielded in six penalty kills on the weekend.
Peter Cohen ’05 relieved Gartner after the Johnson goal and stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced, including all 14 in the third period. Although he allowed a late first-period goal and another early in the second (both to Chris Snizek), Cohen was lights-out for most of the game.
“I thought Pete Cohen was sensational,” Taylor said. “He made some spectacular saves. He stopped a couple of breakaways, he stopped a couple of point-blank shots from the slot.”
Jackson was happy to see his teammate close out his home-ice career on a high note.
“Pete played really well,” Jackson said. “I’m glad he had that finish to his senior year at home. He really kept us in there.”
While Cohen was keeping the Elis in there, the Bulldogs mounted an impressive comeback attempt. Five minutes into the second period, trailing 5-1, Yaworski head-manned the puck to a streaking Joe Zappala ’06. While everyone — on and off the ice — waited for Zappala, Yale’s leading goal-scorer last year, to shoot, the sniper played setup man for a moment and fed a perfect pass to Jackson, who redirected it past Yacey.
Yale drew closer still before the intermission. While Jackson was starting for the bench at the end of a long shift, center Jeff Hristovski ’06, who had just gotten onto the ice, intercepted a neutral-zone pass and sent it to Jackson. Jackson then broke in two-on-one with Hristovski and sent a cross-ice pass to him for Hristovski’s sixth goal of the year.
While the zambonis circled the ice in preparation for the third period, Yale’s fervent comeback try tempered to lukewarm as Dartmouth outshot Yale 14-5 in the third period.
“They came out flying in the third,” Jackson said. “It took our momentum away — kind of killed us.”
With this weekend’s losses having ensured the Bulldogs no better than a tie for last place in the ECAC, Yale wraps up its regular-season schedule Friday and Saturday with visits to Union and Renssalaer.