Yale got just one goal — and zero assists — from its two Hobey Baker Award nominees this weekend. But others were there to pick up the slack.
Chris Cahill ’11 notched five points, Kenny Agostino ’14 scored three times, and the No. 1 Bulldogs returned to their winning ways with 5–2 and 4–1 victories over Clarkson (12–9–2, 6–4–1 ECAC) and St. Lawrence (7–12–4, 3–8), respectively. As scalpers did steady business outside and fans stood four deep along the concourse of sold-out Ingalls Rink on both nights, Yale (17–2, 11–1) used dominant third-period efforts to pull away from its competition and maintain their perfect 12–0 record in front of the home crowd. It was the eighth consecutive sellout at Ingalls Rink.
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“We’re a very conditioned team,” Agostino said. “The third period’s our period.”
That has been the Elis’ unofficial slogan since their season opener, but rarely has it carried the weight it did this weekend. Yale lost for the first time in 11 games last Sunday when Brown seized control in the third period and rode two unanswered goals in the final frame to a come-from-behind victory. Back in front of their raucous blue-and-white clad fans, the Bulldogs reestablished their ability to wear down opponents over 60 minutes.
Although Yale pulled away from its opponents on both nights, the nation’s No. 1 team looked mortal for long stretches early in each game. Its offense, which scores at the best clip in nation, endured a scoreless period in each game and converted on just one of 14 power play opportunities. That rate was far below the 27 percent success rate Yale had had on man advantages before the weekend.
Those offensive difficulties were especially apparent for star linemates Broc Little ’11 and Denny Kearney ’11. The pair — which has combined for a fifth of Yale’s points this season and plays on the team’s top power play unit — was held scoreless in both games.
As those offensive standouts struggled, Yale got help from a rookie and from its longest-tenured player. Agostino — who was playing high school hockey a year ago — scored off a rebound, a breakaway and a one-timer, while Cahill — who played his first game for the team more than four years ago — changed the momentum of the Clarkson game with Yale’s second shorthanded goal of the season. The pair combined for a hand in seven of Yale’s nine goals on the weekend.
The pair’s fireworks show brought the crowd to its feet, but the solid play of netminder Ryan Rondeau ’11 kept the Bulldogs from falling behind as the offense endured scoring droughts. Rondeau stopped 49 of 52 shots on the weekend, including 12 of 12 during a first period against St. Lawrence in which the Saints doubled Yale’s shot total and, coach Keith Allain ’80 admitted, badly outchanced the Bulldogs.
“Rondeau played amazing,” Mike Matczak ’11 said after the St. Lawrence game. “Our whole team wasn’t at our best, but I think Rondeau really held the fort for us.”
Rondeau helped ensure that Yale’s opponents converted just one of 12 power play opportunities, including a two-man advantage over a minute long against St. Lawrence.
A NEW WINNING STREAK BEGINS
Yale defeated Clarkson, 5–2, Friday night, but the game looked far closer than the final score until the last minute, when Yale tallied a pair of goals. For almost three entire periods, the two teams traded unsuccessful odd man rushes and struggled to score despite a combined 15 power plays.
There are not style points in the rankings, however, and captain Jimmy Martin ’11 was happy simply to have a victory.
“It’s a huge win for us, getting back on track,” he said on Friday. “The third period, to come out with the lead, give it up, and then still battle off and win is huge for us against a team that was playing us tough.”
Just two minutes into the third period, the game bore an eerie resemblance to the Brown loss. As they did five days before, the Elis had entered the third period with a 2–1 lead, only to surrender the tying goal. Last week, Yale lost composure.
But on Friday night, the tying goal had the opposite effect and spurred the Elis into action.
“On some teams, a goal like that would make you weaker,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “But it appeared to make us stronger. We came right out after they tied it and I thought we had our best moments after that.”
A fruitless Yale five-on-three advantage that lasted 1:11 was not among those best moments. But the Elis refused to let the visitors seize the momentum after the penalty kill, and three minutes later Agostino notched the game-winning goal.
The winger corralled a long pass from Josh Balch ’13 and skated to the net with a Clarkson defender draped all over him. As he held off the blueliner with one hand, he used the other to flip the puck over Karpowich’s outstretched pad. The superb individual effort showcased a talent Allain said has blossomed in the past month.
“I thought that, like a lot of freshmen, [Agostino] was just okay up until the Christmas break, but he came back after the holiday almost like a different person,” Allain said. “He had it figured out. He knew what it took and he had a different level of confidence. We’re seeing that right now.”
The game after Agostino’s score was all Bulldogs. Clarkson never threatened again, and when the Golden Knights pulled their goalie with just over a minute to go, it took Kearney less than 10 seconds to steal the puck and score an empty net goal from the red line. That tally made the score 4–2 with just 47 seconds to play. The Yale attack wasn’t done, nor was Cahill, who grabbed his own rebound and set the red light flashing with eight tenths of a second remaining on the clock.
THE KID IS ALL RIGHT
Agostino didn’t manage the game-winner Saturday night, but no one was complaining after he notched half his team’s goals and Yale again dominated the third period en route to a 4–1 win over St. Lawrence.
The first period was all about Rondeau, who withstood a resolute St. Lawrence onslaught. His solid play in goal that frame included five saves during a fruitless St. Lawrence two-man advantage that lasted over a minute.
The momentum finally swung in the Elis’ favor, Allain said, after they killed a penalty on Colin Dueck ’11 seven minutes into the second period.
“We got life from our penalty kills tonight,” Allain said.
Indeed, Agostino broke the scoreless tie just five minutes later. The slim one-goal lead was all Yale would get from the second period. The Bulldogs waited until the third to take control of the scoreboard.
Mike Matczak ’11 widened the Yale lead to two goals when his soft wrister from the blue line made its way through traffic and past St. Lawrence’s screened goaltender. Agostino added some insurance — and Yale’s only power play goal of the weekend — when he rifled a one-timer from Cahill inside the near post despite a tricky angle.
“I think I’m just confident and a little bit of it is luck, sort of being in the right place at the right time,” said Agostino, who has scored seven goals in his past seven games. “And again, I’m just always playing with great players.”
St. Lawrence narrowed the deficit to two goals with fewer than two minutes to go, and tried to close the gap further when it pulled goalie Mike Weninger with a minute to go.
Brian O’Neill ’12 ensured that the plan backfired with an empty-net goal seconds later. But the Saints weren’t done, or feeling very saint-like.
Forward Sean Flanagan tripped O’Neill from behind as the Yale winger shot the puck, and a melee ensued by the boards in front of the student section. Punches flew, helmets came off, and it took the referees almost five minutes to sort out the mess. They assigned a combined 45 penalty minutes to Flanagan, Jeremy Wick, Brendan Mason ’11 and Matczak, but the sentences were mere formalities. The final whistle blew seconds later on another Yale victory.
The Bulldogs will travel to upstate New York next weekend to take on No. 10/12 Union on Friday and No. 13/14 RPI on Saturday.