BOSTON — Just a day after rising to No. 5 in both Division I national polls, the men’s hockey team found out just how tough the ECAC can be.
Riding a seven-game conference unbeaten streak heading into the Bright Hockey Center on Tuesday night, the Bulldogs (9–4–3, 5–2–2 ECAC) were unable to erase a two-goal deficit and fell 3–2 to Harvard (3–10–2, 3–5–2), ranked 10th in the ECAC.
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“They played a good game,” center Mark Arcobello ’10 said. “Give their defense and goalie some credit.”
The first frame was surprisingly uneventful for the nation’s top scoring offense as neither team managed to light the lamp.
Though the Elis recorded 12 shots to the Crimson’s four and had two power plays, the Cantab blueliners were able to shut down the Elis and escape the Yale-dominated first period with a scoreless tie.
Yale mustered five shots on its first power play but was unable to convert. The Crimson penalty kill, which has conceded just 16 goals on the power play all season, is ranked third in the ECAC.
But Harvard was not taking advantage at the other end. Yale goaltender Jeff Malcolm ’13 saved four shots in the period, his best coming in the 17th minute. Harvard’s Louis Leblanc got the puck in front of the crease to Alex Killorn, who took a hard shot that Malcolm deflected to the left of the net.
The period ended with Yale on the power play and 1:12 remaining on Cantab Ryan Grimshaw’s penalty — and the Elis capitalized quickly after intermission.
Right winger Sean Backman’s ’10 shot from the left of the net rocketed past netminder Ryan Carroll to give the Elis a 1–0 lead a minute into the second frame. The goal, his 11th of the season, tied Backman for the team lead in goals with right winger Broc Little ’11.
“We had good momentum going there,” Arcobello said, referring to the goal. “Sean had a good shot, and I definitely thought we were going to take control after that.”
But the momentum was short-lived as Leblanc scored the equalizer on a Harvard power play at 2:08 with a shot in front of the net that got past Malcolm’s right shoulder.
And it didn’t stop there. Just over a minute later, Alex Fallstrom recorded his first career goal with a shot taken from the top of the right circle that slipped by Malcolm’s glove on the near post.
Harvard continued its offensive surge with a third goal midway through the frame. Ryan Grimshaw took a shot from inside the circle that Malcolm deflected and Leblanc cleaned up in front of the goal for his second goal of the night.
After having scored a quick goal a minute into the period, the Elis were unable to regain their momentum until a power play with six minutes remaining. The Bulldogs got off five shots on the man advantage. But none were on net, and the period ended with the home team leading 3–1.
“We came out hard in the first and kind of fell asleep in the second, and they took advantage of that,” Backman said.
Yale began to find its way again at the start of the third frame, despite a pair of penalty calls. Behind a couple of Malcolm saves and a Crimson shot that hit the post, the Elis were able to kill the penalties despite consistent Crimson pressure.
The Bulldogs’ hard work was rewarded with their second goal of the night at 5:22. Just nine seconds after Malcolm was pulled for a sixth skater during an Eli power play, defenseman Tom Dignard ’10 found Little at the red line. Little put the puck past Carroll to bring the Elis back within one.
Yale’s best chance to tie things up came when a shot from left winger Denny Kearney ’11 hit underneath the crossbar and deflected out for with three minutes remaining in the period.
A penalty on Little at 18:33 killed Yale’s comeback hopes, as the Cantabs claimed only their third conference win of the season.
“We didn’t do the things you need to do over 60 minutes to win a hockey game,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said.
Backman added: “Tonight was kind of a heartbreaker for us.”
The Elis dropped their first ECAC contest since falling to Rensselaer 5–2 on Nov. 6 in their ECAC opener. The Bulldogs return to Ingalls Rink for the first time since Dec. 5 on Saturday against Brown at 7:30 p.m.