Yale’s oldest rival was in town. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was in the stands. Ryan Rondeau ’11 was back up to his usual standards.
The Eli netminder atoned for a shaky showing at Rensselaer last Saturday with his third shutout of the season, and Yale (18–4, 12–3 ECAC) needed every one of his 34 saves as it eked out a 1–0 victory over visiting Harvard (4–17, 3–13 ECAC).
The No. 2/3 Bulldogs drew not only the sellout crowd that has become routine for their home games, but also some of the biggest Democrats in New England politics. Governor Dan Malloy and Senator Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 joined Massachusetts Senator John Kerry ’66 in the stands. “I really admire these guys,” said Kerry, who was rooting for the Elis even though many of the visitors are his constituents. “I played JV here and I’m amazed by their speed and quickness. They’re great to watch.”
Though President Richard Levin, Provost Peter Salovey, Chief Investment Officer David Swensen GRD ’80 and Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Roland Betts ’68 added to the wattage in the crowd, the men on the ice set out to end a two-game losing streak by getting back to basics, according to captain Jimmy Martin ’11.
That effort did not mean the Elis returned to their old high-scoring ways — they were held to fewer than two goals for the first time this season.
But Rondeau was there to ensure that the Elis’ lone goal — a third period marker from Martin — stood.
“It was a classic goaltender battle,” said the netminder, who earned his third shutout of the season.
Indeed, Yale’s recent offensive struggles continued. Crimson goalie Ryan Carroll denied the Elis through the first two periods. By the time Martin notched the game’s only goal in the third, his team had not scored at even strength in eight consecutive periods.
Yale struggled on the power play too. Though it converts with the man advantage at the second-highest rate in the nation, the home team could do nothing with four opportunities, all in the first two periods.
“Some nights everything is clicking, and some nights it’s not,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “If you’re going to be a good team, you have to find ways to make things work when it’s not.”
That failure to click offensively marked a stark departure from the last meeting between the two traditional rivals, when the Crimson spent almost twice as long in the box and Yale took advantage of two of its opportunities.
That difference was no accident, according to Harvard head coach Ted Donato. “We took too many penalties last time against them, and their power play is excellent if you hook and hold to slow them down,” he said. “They’re one of the top teams offensively in the country, and we had to go after them.”
Although the Cantabs succeeded in shutting down the Yale offense — including the slumping Broc Little ’11, who went without a point for the sixth consecutive game — for two straight periods, the nation’s worst scoring offense could not come to life against its sixth-best defense.
Though Harvard matched Yale shot for shot, only a few one-timers came close to ending Rondeau’s shutout bid. None of those was more dangerous than a Connor Morrison pass through the Yale zone just minutes after Martin’s goal opened the scoring that bounced through traffic, past Rondeau, and to the far side of the net. Rondeau was caught far out of position, and Alex Killorn — Harvard’s leading scorer — dove to push the puck into the wide open net. But the Eli netminder dove too, and managed to cover up and stop play just before Killorn forced the puck out from under his glove and into the net.
The referees’ no goal call withstood a video review, and Rondeau withstood everything the Cantabs threw at him for the rest of the game.
“It was a well played hockey game,” Donato said. “Just one of their shots was better.”
That shot was a low wrister that Martin fired after Jesse Root ’14 won a faceoff in the Harvard end and sent the puck back to his captain. Martin took a couple strides and sent the puck low and through Carroll’s legs. The scorer originally attributed the goal to Kenny Agostino ’14.
Despite the confusion over credit for the goal, Yale needed only the fact that the puck had crossed the goal line to skate off the ice with the win after a gritty defensive battle in which Harvard played far better than its disastrous record indicates.
“They definitely matched our intensity,” Rondeau said. “And that was a big key.”