Knowing that Saturday night could have been Yale’s last game of the season, the men’s hockey team made sure it wasn’t.
After leaping out to a 1–0 lead in the game’s first minute, the No. 6 Bulldogs (20-8-3, 15-5-2 ECAC) never looked back. By the end of the night, the Elis had outshot Brown 43–25 and won 6–3 at home.
The victory forces a game Sunday night at Ingalls Rink, with a trip to the ECAC semifinals in Albany at stake.
A loss not only would have eliminated Yale, the No. 1 seed, from the tournament, but also would have put the team’s at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament in doubt. The same would be true for a loss on Sunday night.
“This team has shown a great ability to respond in big situations over the last couple of years,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “When you’ve done it before, it makes it easier to do it again. It’s still not easy to do it, but [it is] easier.”
Center Mark Arcobello added: “I think that [it] was on everyone’s mind that this could be our last game of the year, so [we said], ‘Let’s make sure it’s not.’”
Just 26 seconds into the game, right winger Broc Little ’11 gave Yale its first lead of the series with a shot that sailed over Brown goaltender Michael Clemente’s right shoulder.
About six minutes later, defenseman Jimmy Martin ’11 made it 2–0 after a hard slap shot from the middle of the slot.
Having outshot the Bears 14–5 in the first period, the Elis kept up the pressure in the second period.
Two minutes into the second frame, left winger Denny Kearney ’11 passed the puck to center Kevin Limbert ’12, whose soft wrister from the top of the face-off circle managed to get past Clemente. It was Kearney’s third assist of the night and 25th of the season, tying him with left winger Brian O’Neill ’12 and center Andrew Miller ’13 for the team lead.
Continuing to dominate possession and flow, the Bulldogs took a commanding 4–0 lead midway through the second period after Miller found O’Neill for the easy backdoor goal. After the play, Brown head coach Brendan Whitten replaced Clemente, despite having called Clemente the team’s “best player” after his 37-save game on Friday.
The Bears scored their first tally of the night early in the third period on a shorthanded breakaway, but the Bulldogs responded just over a minute later on the power play when O’Neill deflected Miller’s shot in, making it 5–1.
Midway through the third period, a string of six consecutive penalties against the Elis forced Yale to be constantly on the penalty kill. At one point, four Bulldogs were crammed into the penalty box. Despite five power plays, including two two-man advantages, Brown only emerged with one additional goal to show for it.
“The last 10 minutes were kind of sloppy,” O’Neill said. “It wasn’t really hockey.”
Late in the third period with Yale up 5–2, Miller showed why he is one of the ECAC’s top freshmen, as he weaved unassisted through the defensive line and scored on a backhander. Brown made it 6–3 in the game’s final minute on a shot from the top of the right face-off circle.
After the game O’Neill said the team’s performance showed how well it can respond even without star forward Sean Backman ’10, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury.
“I think we’re moving the puck really well,” O’Neill said. “Obviously losing Sean hurts goal-scoring, so a couple of us had to step up, but I think [by] putting up six goals — we answered the call. Everyone’s been chipping in.”
Sunday night’s game begins at 7 p.m. at Ingalls Rink.