Canadian Thanksgiving was last month. But the men’s hockey team — which is more than a third Canadian — feasted on its opponents this past week with 15 goals and three wins.
The Bulldogs (8–1, 4–0 ECAC) regained their No. 3 ranking in the USCHO national poll — which they had lost after falling to Air Force two weeks ago — with three wins in five days. The Elis improved their ECAC standing when they handled Cornell and Colgate on a weekend road trip to northern New York, before dismantling Sacred Heart at home Tuesday.
Yale’s freshmen had combined for just a single goal going into the Cornell game, but they made their presence felt on the road trip. Forward Jesse Root ’14 knocked a goal home in each contest, Kenny Agostino ’14 scored against Colgate and both rookies also added assists in the Colgate game. Blueliner Gus Young ’14 returned to the lineup against Sacred Heart for the first time since he sustained an upper-body injury in the season opener.
While Yale’s newcomers helped lead the team on offense, veteran netminder Ryan Rondeau ’11 manned the pipes. The senior rode the bench for much of last season, and played the least of the team’s four goalies. But Coach Keith Allain ’80 — who played goalie in his Yale days and is notoriously coy about his goaltending decisions — gave him a chance in the team’s second game and has hardly looked back since.
Rondeau has started, finished and won all but one of the Bulldogs’ games since his first start. The one game in which he did not see action was Yale’s only loss of the season. In his seven games, he has allowed just 2.15 goals per game and stopped 91.8 percent of the shots he has faced. Those numbers are a solid 13th and 22nd in the nation, respectively.
A test in Ithaca
The Bulldogs began their swing through upstate New York last weekend with a 4–2 comeback victory over Cornell (3–6–0, 2–4–0), last season’s ECAC tournament champions. They kept rolling with a 6–4 win over Colgate (2–9–1, 0–5–1). The wins came a week after Yale suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of the Air Force Academy.
“We definitely needed to learn a lesson from that loss,” captain Jimmy Martin ’11 said. “This was a good weekend for us, getting back into conference play and getting onto track.”
Root got things going for the Bulldogs with his first collegiate goal at 2:50 into the first period, tying the early edge Cornell had taken. The Big Red took the lead again when Joe Devin nudged a shot past Rondeau, but that advantage didn’t last long.
Forwards Broc Little ’11 and Denny Kearney ’11 showed why they rank first and third, respectively, in the nation in points per game when Kearney split two defenders with a no-look backhand pass to Little, who wristed a shot inside the far post to knot the game at two at 11:32 in the second frame.
Cornell had a chance to take another lead with a five-on-three advantage late that period, but Bulldogs killed it off.
“The penalty kill has done a great job of getting in shooting lines and blocking some shots and disrupting the flow of the power play,” Rondeau said. “And the shots that are getting through, the guys are doing a great job of clearing out traffic.”
Rondeau made a few more big stops in the third period — totaling 15 on the game — and forward Chad Ziegler ’12 gave the Bulldogs the lead for good when he buried the rebound of a Kevin Peel ’12 shot.
The game stayed close until the waning minutes, when Cornell pulled Garman for an extra attacker. But center Brendan Mason ’11 quickly sealed the game with an empty net goal, and the Bulldogs skated away from Ithaca with their sixth win of the season.
Yale scrubs Colgate clean
Colgate took an early lead the next night, but three Yale goals in both the first and second periods were enough to quell the Raiders. Forward Brian Day struck for the Raiders just 59 seconds in, but it took just five and a half minutes for the Elis to even the score, and one more for them to grab the lead.
“Colgate’s a pretty quick team — they can keep up with us speed-wise,” Rondeau said. “Giving up a goal in the first minute of the game is something you never want to have happen, and the guys really responded with three straight goals.”
Forward Andrew Miller ’13 scored an unassisted power play goal at 6:33 in the first period, maneuvering around a defender to come in alone on goaltender Eric Mihalik. Colgate incurred another penalty at 7:27, which forward Jeff Anderson ’11 capitalized on at 7:36. Fourteen seconds later, Root earned his second goal of the weekend and of his Yale career.
Though the Blue skated off the ice after the first period with a 3–1 lead and a 21–8 edge in shots, Colgate was quick to turn the momentum around when the next frame began. The Raiders evened the score with two goals in the first four minutes of the second period. But after a nearly 10-minute scoring draught, the Bulldogs responded with three goals of their own from Agostino, Laganiere and Little.
“[Colgate has] a very skilled team and we got behind early, but we battled back and it was nice that we were up three going into the third,” Martin said.
Colgate outshot Yale 15–2 in the last 20 minutes, but Rondeau was nearly perfect in net. Forward Mike McCann finally beat Rondeau at 7:19 with a one-timer for the game’s last tally.
“In the third period we thought we did a good job of hanging on and holding onto the puck,” Rondeau said. “I felt pretty good both games. With Colgate I felt like a couple bounces didn’t go my way but the team did a good job of giving me a cushion.”
Power play powers through Pioneers
Yale used a stellar power play to top struggling Sacred Heart (1–9–4) by a 5–1 margin three days later.
The Elis peppered Sacred Heart goaltender Steven Legatto with shots in the first period and, although Legatto made 18 saves that frame, the Bulldogs still got the puck past him three times.
“[Legatto] played well,” said Ziegler, who helped mar the opposing goalie’s night with two goals. “He made some pretty big saves for the other team. We were doing well getting a lot of shots on net. The score really didn’t tell the tale of how he played in net.”
Ziegler scored two goals in rapid succession in the first period, and Sacred Heart never recovered. The forward’s big night was somewhat of a surprise — he had three goals in eight games going into the contest and scored three times all of last year.
Ziegler’s first goal came when defenseman Young picked up a shot from fellow blueliner Ken Trentowsi ’11 that had bounced off a Sacred Heart defender, and Ziegler one-timed a perfect behind-the-back pass from Young past Legatto at 10:27. Not content with that, Ziegler beat Legatto again 1:12 later — redirecting a behind-the-back pass from Little.
“I just seem to be in the right spots,” Ziegler said. “I guess it’s just been clicking lately.”
The first period onslaught was not over. Little notched a power play marker just four seconds before the end of the frame.
The Pioneers narrowed the Bulldog lead to two goals with a special teams marker early in the second period, but that was the only one of four advantages the Pioneers would convert. Rondeau turned aside 22 of 23 shots, and the Elis received goals from Kearney and Martin in the second period to seal the win.
The Elis will return from a nine-day break for a three-game test against some of the toughest opponents they’ll see all year. They play No. 17 Rensselaer Friday night, No. 13 Union Sunday afternoon and Vermont — which ousted Yale from the NCAA tournament two years ago — Wednesday night.