Yale men’s hockey had hoped for in their ECAC schedule. A tough weekend on the road saw the No. 6 Bulldogs (1–1–1, 0–1–1 ECAC) fall to RPI on Friday evening, 5–2, and tie Union, 3–3, to open conference play.
It was a stalemate at Houston Field House in Troy, N.Y., until RPI (6–3–1, 2–0) landed a double blow, scoring two quick goals at 7:42 and 8:01 into the first period. Forward Broc Little ’11 pulled Yale back into the game on a power play with just 35 seconds remaining in the period. The Elis did not take long to tie the game: 1:37 into the second period it was Little again, this time combining on an assist from Denny Kearney ’11.
RPI took back the lead less than two minutes later as forward Jerry D’Amigo beat Yale goaltender Ryan Rondeau ’11, last week’s ECAC Goalie of the Week. A pair of goals by the Engineers in the third period sealed the victory for the hosts. RPI forward Chase Polacek was Yale’s main challenger, finishing two goals and one assist. Polacek currently leads the ECAC with 14 points — seven goals and seven assists.
Yale players said it was difficult to pinpoint the reason why the Bulldogs simply were not clicking. Brian O’Neill ’12 said that the travel might have played a part in the subpar performance.
“We were a little flat-footed, maybe because of the bus ride,” O’Neill said. “We just didn’t come out to play — we missed a lot of coverages and we had a lot of mental mistakes. We worked hard but we just weren’t all there.”
There was little time for the Bulldogs to brood over the loss, as Union (0–0–2, 3–3–3) awaited just 24 hours later. The RPI defeat provided the motivation that the Elis needed to rouse themselves for the next game.
“I think it can be good to get a wake up call like that,” O’Neill said. “It brought everyone down to ground level and made sure that we don’t get too ahead of ourselves.”
With a point to prove, Yale started out strongly against Union. Forward Sean Backman ’10 put the Bulldogs ahead with a goal at 11:36 in the first period. Having advanced down the right, he fired the puck into the smallest of gaps, beating goalie Corey Milan from a tight angle. The lead did not last long, though. Five minutes later Union’s Adam Presizniuk tied the game on a power-play goal.
And it continued into the second period. Union outscored the Bulldogs 15–5 in the second and it paid off when Valery Trabucco put them ahead on 13:22; Trabucco sold goalie Rondeau with a fake shot before putting the puck away. Union extended their lead with 40 seconds remaining in the period as Kelly Zajac got his third conference goal this season.
Trailing by two going into the third period, it was turning into a very disappointing weekend for the Bulldogs. However, in what is fast becoming Yale’s trademark style, they came back strong in the third period and found their form which had been eluding them all weekend.
Broc Little scored his fourth conference goal of the young season at 8:49 to bring Yale within one goal. The Bulldogs were finally clicking; they had several scoring opportunities and looked like a different team as they dominated possession.
A charging penalty on Presizniuk at 17:28 presented Yale with an opportunity to capitalize on their pressure and salvage a point from the game. With 58 seconds remaining coach Allain pulled Rondeau to give the Bulldogs a man advantage in hopes of tying the score.
This late resurgence looked set to come to no avail until a face-off gave Yale a lifeline with 11 seconds to go. Allain threw caution to the wind and put six forwards on the ice. Andrew Miller ’13 won the face-off and fed Broc Little who gave it to Sean Backman ’10. As the clock ticked, Backman advanced down the right and unleashed a shot which flew into the net for the equalizer.
Backman was the hero but his goal rounded off a strong team effort in the third period. It was a small consolation given the how disappointing, by their own high standards, the Bulldogs were before.
“We’re never satisfied unless we win, but it was good to finally see us play our game in the third period,” Little said.
The Bulldogs open up play at renovated Ingalls Rink this weekend as they host Ivy League rival No. 5 Cornell (3–0, 2–0) on Friday night followed by Colgate (4–2–3, 2–0) on Saturday.