Parity in the ECAC was on clear display this weekend at Ingalls Rink — at the men’s hockey team’s expense.
After a string of impressive wins over the break, the No. 19 Bulldogs (11-5-1, 6-3-1 ECAC) were brought down to earth by two of the ECAC’s bottom-feeders.
Yale squandered two-goal leads in both games, as they fell 4-3 to Clarkson (5-13-4, 3-6-1) on Friday and then tied St. Lawrence (11-9-2, 3- 5-2), 2-2, in overtime the following night.
In their first game, the Elis looked to have a comfortable 3-1 lead early in the third period after goals from right winger Broc Little ’11, left winger Jeff Anderson ’11 and center Brian O’Neill ’12.
The visitors got on the board first with a Shea Guthrie power-play goal midway through the period, but the Bulldogs responded with Little’s nation-leading fifth short-handed goal of the season. Left winger Denny Kearney ’11 intercepted a pass in the defensive zone and sent a lead pass to Little, who had gained a step behind the Clarkson defense. By that time, there was no one who was going to catch the fastest skater on the ice, and there was little doubt of what the outcome would be. Little calmly executed the one-on-one with Clarkson goalie Richie LaVeau, and in the blink of an eye, the game was tied.
Yale scored two goals during the second period to give them the lead heading into the final frame, but the Elis were never in total control of the game. A Julien Cayer goal at 7:39 put some life back into the visiting Golden Knights, and as the raucous visiting fans began making their presence in Ingalls Rink felt, Clarkson gained confidence and momentum.
In a situation reminiscent of Yale’s losses to Union and Nebraska-Omaha, the Golden Knights scored two more goals in just over three minutes of play. With his team now trailing 4-3, Yale head coach Keith Allain called a timeout at 10:49, allowing the visitor’s cheers to resonate throughout the rink amidst the stunned home crowd.
“We didn’t come to play 60 minutes tonight,” right winger Sean Backman ’10 said. “They say that a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey. It was for us tonight.”
The Bulldogs responded positively after the brief lapse, showing a sense of urgency that had been missing while they had been in the lead. Yet a combination of bad luck and stellar play from Clarkson’s freshman netminder — who had steadied himself after a shaky start — prevented the home team from tying the score.
Little hit the cross-bar during a short-handed situation with two minutes left, and O’Neill had a clear look at goal from close range with under 30 seconds remaining, but Clarkson defender Adam Bellows brought him down before he could get a shot off. Yale pulled their goalie, thus giving them a two-man advantage, but they were unable to convert.
“We got exactly what we deserved,” Allain said of the loss. “The energy and the work ethic were there, but our heads weren’t really where they should have been.”
They say you learn more from a loss than you do from a win, Backman added.
“Tonight that was certainly the case,” he said.
And despite the tie against St. Lawrence, it was clear that Yale players had learned their lesson.
Center Kevin Limbert ’12 gave the Elis the lead at 15:57 when he picked up a deflected Jimmy Martin ’11 attempt and wristed a low shot past Saint goalie Alex Petizian. But it was Yale’s response to their own first goal that mattered more.
After having seemed content with their two-goal lead against Clarkson, the Bulldogs picked up the intensity in search of doubling their lead. They were rewarded less than a minute later when defenseman Ken Trentowski ’11 threaded the needle perfectly to give O’Neill a one-on-one with Petizian. The freshman center knew what to do from there, coolly wristing a shot into the lower left part of the net for his sixth goal in seven games.
“We really needed to come out strong tonight,” goalie Billy Blase ’10 said. “After last night, we had a heart to heart, and set some things straight that we didn’t like.”
Although the Elis’ confidence only grew with their two goal lead, the Saints got a goal back in the final minute of the period on a two-on-two break. SLU’s Kevin DeVergilio drew both Yale defenders before feeding Casey Parenteau with a crossing pass at the last possible moment for an open net.
The second frame was all about the goalies, with Petizian and Blase keeping the period scoreless. Blase — who got the start over Alec Richards ’09 (while Ryan Rondeau ’11 is still out with an injury) — made his best saves at around 13:30 while the visitors were on the power play. After making an initial save, Blase found himself on his back, yet still denied the Saints with a slew of acrobatic stops. As the referees blew the play dead, a fight broke out, ensuing in two offsetting penalties for each team.
DeVergilio tied the contest up early in the third period when his shot just trickled over the goal line, and despite an extra five-minute overtime period, the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
After the game, Allain admitted that he was pleased with his team’s performance.
“It was a terrific hockey game for both teams,” he said. “Speed, hitting, goaltending … it had all the elements. … We paid more attention to detail, played with more intensity.”
The Elis travel to New York this weekend to face division rivals Cornell and Colgate for the first time this season.