M. HOCKEY | Split week on ice

A tough loss and a come-from-behind victory gave the men’s hockey team mixed results on its opening weekend of league play.

The Bulldogs (2-1-0, 1-1-0 ECAC) hit the splits in a challenging road trip to upstate New York, falling 3-2 in overtime to St. Lawrence (4-2-1, 1-0-1) on Friday night before pulling off an upset over No. 15 Clarkson (2-2-2, 1-1-0) by the same margin Saturday night. The close nature of both games indicated the strength of the Eli roster, although they still have much to improve upon as the long hockey season gets underway.

The Saints took an early lead Friday with a power play tally just 3:28 into the first period, cashing in on a Yale penalty for the only man-advantage goal of the night. But Broc Little ’11, returning to the forward line after an outstanding rookie season, netted the equalizer for Yale just five minutes later on a beautiful unassisted play.

The score did not remain tied for long, however – the Saints secured a 2-1 lead with an even-strength goal at 9:43. Although St. Lawrence had several more opportunities, including back-to-back powerplay chances as the first frame came to a close, goaltender Billy Blase ’10 and the Bulldog defense settled down to keep the hungry Saints at bay.

The remainder of regulation was dominated by the Eli offense, as the visitors outshot the home team 29-17 in the second and third periods. Captain Matt Nelson ’09 put up the only score with five minutes left in the middle frame, bouncing the puck off an SLU blueliner and under the crossbar to level the playing field for the Bulldogs going into the final break.

Unfortunately, that was the last bounce that went the Elis’ way Friday night. After a scoreless third period, SLU’s Brandon Bollig earned the game winner just 1:14 into overtime. Taking advantage of a scramble on the Eli goal line, the rookie forward managed to get his stick on the puck and slip it past Blase, giving the Saints their first win over the Bulldogs since the 2006-’07 season.

“We got off to a rough start, but we picked it up in the second period,” Nelson said. “We could have been up by two or three goals, but they got a lucky goal in overtime. It was tough because we thought we deserved to win.”

Saturday night was a similar story with a different outcome for the Elis as they faced off against Clarkson. Yale trailed in the opening frame, scored the only goal in a dominant middle period, and skated neck-and-neck with the Golden Knights after the final intermission. This time, however, the Elis would not be robbed of the victory.

Blueliner Jimmy Martin ’11 responded to a Clarkson goal 21 seconds into the third frame, grabbing a failed clear at 3:53 and burying the puck in the back of the net to make it 2-2. Less than a minute later, forward Sean Backman ’10 tallied the gamewinner with assistance from classmates Mark Arcobello ’10 and Tom Dignard ’10. Backman’s power play goal was his second man-advantage score of the night and put him at the top of the Elis’ scoring chart for the third straight season.

In addition to giving a boost in the early ECAC rankings, Saturday’s win buoyed the squad’s spirits, which will be important for the Bulldogs as they look to make a statement in the early part of their season.

“Clarkson is the No. 15 team in the country, so it was a huge confidence booster getting that win,” Nelson said. “We battled consistently for the entirety of the game and pulled off a nice win.”

And although Nelson cited a few weaknesses that carried over from Friday to Saturday night – particularly getting off to a slow start in the first period – there was a definite trend of improvement from one night to the next this weekend.

“We played a lot better in the Clarkson game,” blueliner Ryan Donald ’10 said. “Everyone registered that we should have won on Friday. We had more shots than they did and we knew for the whole game that we deserved to win it. I think we’ve got a lot to expand on from Saturday.”

The Bulldogs are back in action at the University of Connecticut tomorrow night.

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