Not even the second stingiest defense in the nation can stop Yale’s nation-leading offense right now.
After tearing through Colgate 6–3 on Friday, the No. 6 men’s hockey team toppled No. 8 Cornell in overtime, 2–1, in a heated contest between two of the three ECAC first-place teams. It was Yale’s fifth consecutive victory over the rival Big Red.
The pair of victories, along with Union’s Saturday night to Harvard, gave the Bulldogs sole possession of first place in the ECAC with four games remaining in the regular season. The Elis clinched their second consecutive Ivy League title with the victory in Ithaca, N.Y.
“Cornell has been one of the best, most consistent teams in the country,” left winger Denny Kearney ’11 said. “Every aspect of the game — rankings, standings, Ivy League title — was just huge.”
Now, having won a season-high four games in a row, Yale is the hottest it has been all season long.
The week after scoring 10 goals in two games, the Bulldog offense picked up right where it left off by taking a 4–1 lead in the second period at Colgate on Friday.
Right wingers Sean Backman ’10 and Broc Little ’11 had two goals apiece in the 6–3 victory.
“Our creativity on offense was very good,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said in a press release. “Six is a lot of goals, but we really had a lot of great plays and could have had more.”
Right winger Andrew Miller ’13 gave Yale the early lead at 3:53 on a power play goal that saw Miller put in a rebound.
Left winger Brian O’Neill ’12 made it 2–0 seven minutes later, going five-hole after a lead pass from Backman.
The Raiders halved the Eli lead with four minutes left in the first period, but Little responded by scoring his 19th goal of the season, four seconds before time expired in the first frame.
The second period was all about defense for the Bulldogs, as Colgate had three consecutive power plays, but Yale goalkeeper Billy Blase ’10 stopped all nine shots that came his way, killing the power plays.
“I try to have fun in those situations,” Blase said in a press release. “I love trying to stop pucks and having a chance to prove to my teammates what I can do.”
Having escaped on the lengthy penalty kill, the Elis took a 4–1 lead at 19:03, courtesy of a Backman goal.
Less than two minutes into the third period, Little made it 5–1. The Raiders scored two in the final five minutes, but it was too little too late for sixth-place Colgate. The victory kept Yale in a three-way tie for first at the time — a tie the Bulldogs broke the next night at Cornell’s Lynah Rink.
In a battle between Yale’s nation-leading scoring offense and Cornell’s second-ranked defense, the Elis came back from a 1–0 first-period deficit and controlled the majority of the game, outshooting the Big Red 41-8 in the second, third and overtime periods. Still, it took overtime before Yale could get a second shot past Cornell goaltender Ben Scrivens, who had 52 saves on the night.
“We were playing so well that I just knew we’d score another goal at some time,” Kearney said. “We were just riding the momentum.”
Both offenses looked strong in the first period, but it was the Big Red that took the 1–0 lead at 6:49. The goal from left winger Colin Greening came after a series of short passes in front of the net caught Blase out of position.
Blase, for his part, was busy during the first period, making 11 saves, including a series of stops that came during a dangerous Big Red power play 10 minutes into the game.
But Blase got a breather in the subsequent periods, as Yale’s relentless attack picked up. Using an aggressive forecheck, the speedy Elis unloaded 20 shots in the second period, enough to tie the game.
Kearney found center Mark Arcobello in front of the net, and Arcobello’s one-timer evened the game, 1–1, at 13:48.
The Bulldogs would continue to pressure — a shot from right defenseman Kevin Peel ’12 hit the crossbar a minute after Arcobello’s goal — but the strong play of Scrivens in front of the net kept the two sides even at the end of regulation.
Yale dominated the overtime period, recording all eight shots on goal. The final one managed to trickle past Scrivens for the game-winner with less than two minutes left in the extra frame.
Skating along the left boards with the puck, O’Neill made a cross-ice pass to Backman, who was streaking toward the net. Backman went five-hole on Scrivens, whose glove was able to slow, but not stop, the sliding puck.
The goal quieted the rowdy Lynah crowd, as the Eli bench swarmed Backman after his game-winner.
With the victory, Blase is now 5–0–0 this season.
“I can’t imagine a better college hockey game,” Allain said. “That was as good as we have played this year.”
The Bulldogs return to Ingalls Rink next weekend to face fourth-place St. Lawrence on Friday night and last-place Clarkson on Saturday afternoon.
Correction: Feb. 15, 2010
An earlier version of the caption accompanying this article was inaccurate. The photo shows Yale’s 6–3 win over Harvard on Feb. 6 at Ingalls Rink, not Yale’s 2–1 overtime win against Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., this past Saturday.