Even though the football team lost, there was still something to celebrate Saturday night.
The men’s hockey team, on the rebound after last weekend’s tough loss to Cornell, improved their record to 4-1 against non-conference rival UConn in a back-and-forth 3-2 game at Ingalls Rink on Saturday.
The Elis nearly took the lead early in the first, when forward Jean-Francois Boucher ’08, an offensive leader from last year who had not yet scored this season, fired a shot that appeared to have gone off the skate of a Huskies defender and into the net. The referees, however, called the goal back, saying that it was kicked in off Boucher’s skate. After that disappointment, the Elis struggled to pick up the pace, allowing UConn to grab the lead on a power play with 2:11 remaining in the period. Senior forward Matt Scherer, who leads his team in scoring with nine goals, sent a low shot past goalie Alec Richards ’09 to give the Huskies a 1-0 advantage.
“We came out flat,” forward Sean Backman ’10 said. “We had a slow start, but in the second and third periods we really picked it up.”
Boucher got another opportunity to score in the second frame on a delayed penalty. Off a pass from defenseman Tom Dignard ’10, he snapped a clean shot past UConn goalie Jon Anderson to tie the game. The Elis pulled ahead less than two minutes later, when Backman redirected a shot by defenseman Rob Page ’08 and found the back of the net.
But UConn was not quite finished. Midway through the second period, the Huskies, playing with a one-man advantage, kept the pressure on Richards and eventually put the puck past him off the rebound from a deflected shot. With the score still tied in the third, Backman broke through the UConn defense to score at 6:06 off a feed from forward Mark Arcobello ’10. His shot turned out to be the game-winner, as the Eli blueliners — who have not given up a goal in the third period all season — held the Huskies to just two shots for the entire frame.
“I think we played down to a lesser opponent,” captain Matt Cohen ’07 said. “We should have gone out there and dominated that team. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t come out and be a little hungrier, but we got the job done and got the win. That’s the mark of a good team, so I’m happy with that.”
The Elis also improved in terms of penalties and shots on goal after last weekend’s subpar performance against Cornell. Yale players spent just 22 minutes in the penalty box, their lowest total all season. Richards also had a season-low 16 saves, indicative of an Eli campaign that outshot the Huskies 32-18.
“I think the defense has been doing a pretty good job all year,” Cohen said. “We blocked some shots, and we did a good job of keeping them away from Alec. I’m happy that we limited them to 18 shots.”
While the Eli defense did its job on their end of the ice, the forwards also picked up the pace in the last two periods, taking advantage of power play opportunities and getting nearly three times as many shots on goal as the Huskies. Backman, who now leads Yale in scoring with four goals and one assist, delivered a solid performance, as did Arcobello and Boucher.
After the game, head coach Keith Allain ’80 said that he was pleased with the effort and that the win would help bolster the team’s confidence as they head into next weekend, where they will face tough opponents Dartmouth and Harvard on the road.