HANOVER, NH — Yale is supposed to be a high-flying offensive juggernaut with a quick but porous defense. Their 9–7 elimination from the NCAA tournament at the hands of Boston College last year was supposed to have exposed the Elis as flashy but flaky. But that was last year.
This year the Elis can play defense.
Ryan Rondeau ’11 sparkled in net and two sophomores gave No. 1 Yale (13–1, 7–0 ECAC) all the offense it needed in a 2–1 win over Dartmouth (7–5–2, 5–3–1) Friday at a sold out Thompson Rink in Hanover. The Bulldogs’ victory — their closest of the season — extended their current winning streak to eight games, the best in the nation.
Yale and Dartmouth had combined for 10 goals in their previous meeting this year in the season-opening Ivy League shootout. This time, the goalies took over. Rondeau tied a career high with 32 saves in a full 60-minute effort, and James Mello, his Big Green counterpart, turned aside 35 of 37 shots. The low scoring game dropped Dartmouth from its position as the country’s No. 5 scoring offense heading into the contest to a tie with New Hampshire for the No. 12 slot in that category.
“That was a heck of a hockey game,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “Ryan [Rondeau] was rock solid.”
Anchored by their goalies, the teams skated to a stalemate in the first period. Neither side made a mistake that stuck, fighting a back-and-forth battle for 20 goal- and penalty-free minutes. Dartmouth’s hard, controlled hits kept the Eli offense dry while not allowing Yale a chance to employ its superb power play unit, which has a 26.0 percent conversion rate.
The Big Green not only stymied Yale’s attack — the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense — but also narrowly outshot the Blue in the opening frame, 12-11.
The shots kept coming in the second period, and goals finally followed. Antoine Laganiere ’13 momentarily silenced the sea of green in the stands when he knocked the rebound of a Ken Trentowski ’11 shot past Mello at 7:49 into the frame.
Dartmouth’s Rob Smith tied the game with a wraparound five minutes later. But Rondeau would not allow another puck to get by him for the rest of the game. And Yale got all the offense it needed from Josh Balch ’13, who scored for the second consecutive game.
Just after Chad Ziegler ’12 left the penalty box after serving time for the game’s first infraction, the right winger made a pass to Brendan Mason ’11, who gave Balch a perfect pass that the sophomore one-timed from in front of the net past Mello to put Yale up, 2–1.
“When you put the puck on the net, anything can happen,” Balch told Yale Athletics.
Yale kept the pressure coming, and enjoyed a long two-man advantage split between the end of the second period and the beginning of the third. The successive infractions were outliers in a game that saw only five penalties between the two teams.
But Mello turned away everything Yale threw at him, and Rondeau did the same when Dartmouth skated up ice with a series of odd man rushes after they killed the dangerous power play.
“They came out hard and we weathered the storm,” Rondeau said. “I felt like a lot of shots were from the perimeter, which is what you want. Our guys also blocked a lot of shots.”
Neither team would threaten seriously again. Yale’s aggressive forecheck kept Dartmouth pinned in the neutral zone for most of the third period, and was especially strong after the Big Green pulled Mello with just over a minute to go. When the home team did manage a shot, Rondeau was ready.
“Each time we had a breakdown, Ryan [Rondeau] was there to bail us out,” captain Jimmy Martin ’11 said.
Dartmouth pulled Mello for the extra skater with 65 seconds left but — like most of the game — the Yale forecheck prevented sustained pressure. When the Green did reach the Yale net, Rondeau came up with the stop every time.
Allain, back with Yale for the first time since leading the American team to a bronze medal in the World Junior Hockey Championships, was unconcerned with his team’s lack of offensive production. Martin echoed his coach, and attributed the vast difference between Yale’s 10 goals against Holy Cross and two goals Friday night to the intricacies of hockey.
Still, Allain admitted his team let opportunities slide.
“We had some chances,” he said. “We had a couple of guys in alone, we had some good odd man rushes, but a couple of times we couldn’t pull the trigger.”
Yale’s road trip continues when the Elis take on Harvard in Cambridge at 7 p.m. Saturday. The name on the opponents’ jerseys will not affect the emotions of the game, according to Rondeau.
“Conference play is conference play,” he said.
YDN’s three stars:
- Ryan Rondeau ’11, goalie
Dartmouth’s offense skated against Yale at a frantic pace all game, and fired 33 shots at Rondeau. The Bulldog netminder didn’t budge. He came up with a big glove save on a late Dartmouth two-on-one, and elevated his save percentage to the fourth-best mark in the nation when he allowed only a second period wraparound to get by him.
- Josh Balch ’13, right wing
The young Yale line of Balch, Kenny Agostino, and Jesse Root couldn’t muster the nine points they did against Holy Cross, but Balch — who saw little playing time early in the season — registered his second consecutive solid effort at both ends of the ice. He scored the game-winning goal when he muscled past a Dartmouth defender to get his stick on a one-timer. He showed the same muscle on defense when he exchanged shoves after the whistle with a pair of opposing forwards who got fresh with Rondeau.
- James Mello, Dartmouth, goalie
Yale’s offense went into Friday night averaging the most goals per game in the nation by a large margin. The squad boasts four of the top 20 scorers in the nation, and every line is a threat to light the lamp. Mello withstood most of the barrage. He denied Denny Kearney on a breakaway in the first period and stood strong when Dartmouth spent more than a minute playing down two men between the second and third periods. As Mello turned aside 35 shots, Yale lit the lamp for the fewest times so far this season.