This past weekend, the men’s hockey team found out the hard way that there are no guaranteed victories in the ECAC.
The Bulldogs (7-3, 4-2 ECAC) split a pair of weekend home games against two teams near the bottom of conference standings — Union (7-5-1, 2-4) and Rensselaer (2-11-1, 1-5). On Friday, Yale responded to an early two-goal deficit with six straight of their own to defeat the RPI Engineers 7-3. It was the exact opposite in their 5-2 loss to the Union Dutchmen on Saturday. After an impressive first period which gave the home team a 2-0 lead, Union rattled off five in a row to stun the home crowd at Ingalls Rink.
Right winger Broc Little ’11 was the star of the weekend for Bulldog offense. This weekend’s combined three goals and two assists increase Little’s point total to 12, tying him with center Mark Arcobello ’10 for the team lead. This Monday, Little was named ECAC offensive player of the week.
Arcobello and left defenseman Kevin Peel ’12 each scored twice against RPI, while Alec Richards ’09 made 24 saves in net.
Midway through the first frame, Peel gave the Bulldogs the lead when he blasted a slapper past RPI netminder Mathias Lange with eight seconds left on a 5-on-3.
But three straight goals, including a pair by freshman left winger Patrick Cullen, helped RPI end the first period with a 3-1 lead.
“We came out a little sluggish, maybe due to the 10-day rest,” Little said.
It took the Bulldogs a few minutes to settle down following the break, but once they did, they overwhelmed the visitors with some of their best hockey of the season. They outshot the Engineers 15-2 while keeping almost all of the action in the attacking third. Yale defensemen did an excellent job preventing the Engineers from clearing the puck past the RPI blue line, which would have forced Bulldog offense to reset and avoid being offsides. Center Brian O’Neill ’12, Arcobello and Peel all scored in the period.
The Elis kept things rolling after the second intermission with three more scores. Arcobello added his second of the contest within a minute on the power play, while left winger Mike Karwoski ’09 notched his first of the season two minutes later on a nice individual play. Karwoski came all the way out from behind the net on the right side of the ice before looping around to light the lamp with a low wrister. Little completed the scoring with a give-and-go with left winger Denny Kearney ’11 13:45 into the final frame on an RPI power play.
After the game, head coach Keith Allain praised his team’s gritty comeback victory.
“The test of a good hockey team is the ability to come from behind,” he said. “This was a good opportunity to prove ourselves.”
The Elis continued their momentum the next night against Union with a pair of first-period goals by Little. The New Hampshire native took the puck from fellow forward Chris Cahill ’10 before going five-hole on Union goalie Corey Milan. Kearney showed why he is tied for the team lead in assists on the team’s second goal. His precise long-range pass found a streaking Little just before the puck would have crossed a second line, resulting in an offside pass. With only Milan left to beat, Little deked Milan left and once again went five-hole for the goal.
The Dutchmen responded positively in the second period and began applying pressure on Yale netminder Billy Blase ’10, who was making his second start of the year. The away squad eventually made their hard work pay off when Union forward Adam Presizniuk got one back 18:11 into the second on the power play.
As Union continued to press during the final frame, Yale players used any means necessary to conserve their lead. Right winger Sean Backman ’10 and Ken Trontowski ’11 both used their bodies to block slapshots by their Dutchmen after having each lost their sticks.
The away team was not to be denied, though. After failing to put the game away in the first period, the Bulldogs let the opportunistic Dutchmen convert on four of their 12 shots, while the home team was blanked on its nine scoring attempts.
“In the second period we had five penalties in a row, so we were shorthanded a lot,” O’Neill said. “They took advantage of their chances. I don’t think we played badly; we just took our foot off the pedal.”
Two goals in the span of less than two minutes midway through the period gave Union a lead it built upon as the game wound down. The Dutchmen got an insurance goal at 15:21, and an empty netter in the final two minutes of the game made the contest seem much more lopsided than it actually was.
The loss against Union halted a three-game winning streak for the Bulldogs, who had also won six of their last seven contests. O’Neil saw the loss as a reality check for the team, despite the disappointing loss.
“We can learn from this, and I don’t think it’ll happen again,” he said. “It kind of humbled us, but I think that’s good a thing.”
The Bulldogs do not play again until Dec. 29, when they welcome Nebraska-Omaha to Ingalls Rink at 7 p.m.