With the game tied at four late in the third period and Yale short-handed, Joe Zappala ’06 found himself with a golden opportunity in front of Dartmouth goalie Mike Devine. As the crowd at a packed Ingalls Rink rose to its feet, Zappala set himself and picked a corner.
But instead of firing the puck, Zappala’s stick snapped in half, and the puck slipped away from an incredulous Zappala. Devine was able to control the shot to a Dartmouth player who started the transition. Ten seconds later, Dartmouth captain Mike Ouellette converted the odd-man rush into the game winner.
The Yale men’s hockey team’s (7-12-3, 6-8-4 ECACHL) 6-4 loss to favored Dartmouth (11-10-1, 9-5-1) was about shifting momentum, as exemplified by Zappala’s play. After tallying three goals in the first 8:22 and dominating the first period, the Bulldogs had the edge. Though Ouellete’s power-play goal with 3:51 remaining was a quick reversal and perhaps the result of a lucky break, it was more a manifestation of a trend that began early in the second period and continued through much of the game.
Such a momentum swing seemed extremely unlikely considering the way Yale started the game. Controlling the pace of play from the outset, the Elis struck early. After collecting the rebound from his own shot, Jean-Francois Boucher ’08 passed the puck from behind the net to point man Dave Inman ’09. Inman fired a low shot Devine could not control, and Boucher was there to bang it home. A pretty rising slap-shot from Matt Cohen ’06 off a Dartmouth defender’s weak clear put the Bulldogs up two.
One minute and 18 seconds later, Yale scored again on a power play. After working the puck around the perimeter from Blair Yaworski ’08 to Mike Karwoski ’09, Karwoski found David Meckler ’09 10 feet out. Meckler was able to take a pass off his skate and flip the puck into the top right corner.
After outshooting the Big Green 16-6 in the first, the Bulldogs allowed 26 shots in the second period alone. Alec Richards ’09 turned away two breakaway opportunities in the period and repeatedly stopped point-blank opportunities in front of the net. For the game, Richards stopped 43 of 48 shots — the last goal was scored on an empty net. Devine stopped 28 of 32 for the game.
Richards said he thought Dartmouth’s energy got the Bulldogs off their game in the second period.
“We just had a couple mental breakdowns,” Richards said. “We didn’t stick to the game plan. And against a good team like Dartmouth, they’re going to make you pay.”
Nick Johnson broke through for Dartmouth 4:06 into the second on a feed from behind the net from Eric Przepiorka, which Johnson redirected into an open net. Przepiorka, who earned the ire of the home crowd, scored next after weaving his way to the net unimpeded and flipping the puck under Richards’ arm. The pesky forward recorded three points and seven shots on goal.
Yale was lucky to escape the second with the lead, and the players knew it as they went to talk to head coach Tim Taylor before the final frame.
“[Taylor] didn’t say much,” Richards said. “He didn’t need to. We wanted to come out strong in the third and finish off the game, but it wasn’t enough.”
Zappala said he didn’t feel as if either team actually changed its game plan.
“In the first period, we did everything we wanted to and they didn’t,” Zappala said. “The second period was the exact opposite. We just fell asleep.”
At the beginning of the third, the puck was mostly in the Bulldogs’ end except for one highlight from Karwoski. In a great individual effort, Karwoski came down on a two-on-two. As his defender laid down on the ice to block a pass, Karwoski let him slide by, pulling the puck around for an open look right in front. His shot beat Devine, but clanged off the crossbar.
Dartmouth’s pressure was reflected on the scoreboard shortly thereafter. Connor Shields took a turnover for a clean breakaway goal, and 35 seconds later Tanner Glass walked in from seven feet out to fire it into the top left corner.
After these goals, Yale appeared to regain its sense of urgency. The veteran line of Brad Mills ’07, Jeff Hristovski ’08 and Boucher, productive all night, proved their mettle in the clutch. On a classic three-on-two, Boucher made his defender commit to him to create a two-on-one for Hristovski and Mills. Hristovski deftly faked his defender and the goalie, giving Mills an open shot over a diving Devine that tied the score at four.
Despite several close calls and a frantic rush in the last minute after pulling Richards for an extra man, Yale could not overcome Dartmouth. But Pat Brosnihan ’09 said he did not let the loss discourage him.
“Obviously, it was a tough loss, but you can’t dwell on it,” Brosnihan said. “We bounced back with a good win against UConn, and we’ve got some tough league games ahead. It’s just a matter of finishing the year strong.”
In Sunday’s game against UConn (8-18-1), the Bulldogs prevailed, 4-3. Although the Elis led 4-2 late in the third, the Huskies made it interesting after pulling within one goal and pulling their goalie. Seeking an important insurance goal, Zappala rushed the puck into the UConn zone. His shot missed, but the puck was thrown back in front, where a frantic struggle ensued while UConn players dove in front of several Yale shots.
After a stoppage, the Huskies had just enough time to bring the puck down and get a shot on goalie Josh Gartner ’06. Somehow, the puck got behind Gartner while three UConn players crashed the net. With the puck literally sitting on the goal line, the whistle blew with half a second remaining. Fortunately for the Elis, the referee called it no goal, and Yale escaped with the win.