In their first regular season game at Princeton on Saturday, the Yale men’s hockey team showed why it is favored to defend the ECAC championship, convincingly beating the No. 11 Tigers 5–2.
Although not officially an ECAC contest, facing Princeton, ranked 11th nationally, in their opener was a good barometer for the Elis, who are ranked 7th nationally and have huge expectations coming into the season. While the expectations are high, Coach Keith Allain, who is starting his fourth season at the helm, dismissed the notion of added pressure.
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“None whatsoever,” he said. “The pressure that these guys put on themselves is greater than any from the outside.”
Yale took the lead with just 1:09 on the clock in the first period on a Kevin Limbert ’12 goal, assisted by fellow forward Broc Little ’11. Limbert beat Zane Kalemba, the Princeton goaltender, who was voted last season’s ECAC and Ivy League Player of the Year. The Tigers answered on a power play when forward Mike Kramer scored at 8:39 later in the period.
Yale fell behind late in the second period after another Princeton power play goal, as forward Kevin Kaiser put the Tigers ahead, 2–1. Down on the road against a formidable foe, Yale remained confident.
“Nobody was panicking and we all understood that we deserved to be in the game, and that if we took care of the little things, we would start getting a few breaks,” captain and defenseman Ryan Donald ’10 said.
Indeed they did, as the third period was a different story. Everything fell into place for Yale’s offense and the Bulldogs scored four unanswered goals to ice the game. Defenseman Kevin Peel ’12 tied the score with a powerful slapshot 4:48 into the final period. A mere 40 seconds later, Yale took the lead on a shorthanded goal by Little. Little led the nation with five shorthanded goals last season.
“You absolutely have to have guys out there to bail you out when you get a penalty and be able to kill it for you, but to have a guy that can be a scoring threat every time our team is shorthanded is very rare and very useful,” Peel said.
Little was quick to acknowledge Denny Kearney, who had three assists on the night, often the provider for his breakaway goals.
“Denny and I have a knack, he’s always setting me up whenever I see we have a chance to clear,” Little said. “I just take off and he finds me.”
It was Kearney who won the puck and found Little who put it away from outside the crease.
Freshman forward Andrew Miller ’13 continued the scoring frenzy as he scored his first collegiate goal, wrong-footing the goalie and sliding the puck past him. With just over 30 seconds remaining, forward Sean Backman ’10 finished off a resounding third period with an empty net goal.
Particularly impressive in this display of offensive prowess were the widespread attacking threats, with goals coming from five different players. Donald was happy so many players were able to step up and score.
“This depth is difficult to defend simply because it is constant, rather than having one or two guys the opposition can key in on, we have four lines that can go out and contribute at any time,” he said.
Up next for Yale is a trip to upstate New York to open ECAC play. The Bulldogs play at Rensselaer on Friday and Union on Saturday as they begin their journey to Albany to defend their ECAC title.