Following a 4-3 overtime loss to No. 5 Boston University, the men’s ice hockey team entered its four-game Thanksgiving break stretch hoping to gain ground in the ECAC standings. Instead, the Bulldogs came away with mixed results, averting a winless week with a 6-1 blowout against Princeton at Ingalls Rink Nov. 24.
The Bulldogs (2-4-1, 2-3-1 ECAC) led from wire to wire as they put on a clinic for their Princeton (3-6-0, 3-4-0 ECAC) counterparts. Wingers Denis Nam ’03, Jason Noe ’02, Mike Klema ’04 and Spencer Rodgers ’02 all notched their first goals of the season. Nam led the team with two goals and an assist.
But the Bulldogs did not fare as well in their other contests over Thanksgiving break. Just four days before hosting the Tigers the Bulldogs blew a 1-0 lead in New Jersey, falling to Princeton 2-1 in overtime Nov. 20. The other highlight of the week, besides the Bulldogs’ blowout victory, was a 4-4 tie against the University of Vermont (1-8-1. 1-2-1 ECAC) Nov. 18. Yale opened the week with a 5-2 loss to Dartmouth (4-2-1, 3-1-1).
After Yale took one point from its first three contests last week, the win against Princeton brought the team a welcome relief from a season that has featured five games decided by a goal or less.
“Taken as a whole, you’d like to get more points,” goalie Dan Lombard ’02 said. “But it was great to get a convincing win. We didn’t find a way to lose; we found a way to win. We are a young team, and it’s a part of the growing process for us.”
The Bulldogs entered their game against Princeton fired up after their 2-1 overtime loss four days earlier.
Nam entered the game with one career goal and scored consecutively in the second and third periods. Lombard made 26 saves, including 10 in the final period, to pick up the win in the net.
At 9:06 of the first period, Rodgers opened the scoring against the Tigers when the Bulldogs connected on their second power-play opportunity of the night. After a flurry of shots in front of the Princeton net, Rodgers slipped the puck past netminder Dave Stathos, who finished the night with 23 saves before Nate Nomeland replaced him.
The Tigers threatened to turn the night into another seesaw battle when winger David Schneider came in alone on Lombard at the end of the first period. Schneider’s shot found nothing but the wood of Lombard’s stick before a follow-up shot from winger Scott Prime landed in Lombard’s glove, halting Princeton’s best scoring chance of the night and preserving the Bulldogs’ one-goal lead through the first intermission.
The Bulldogs made it 2-0 in the second period with a beautiful pass from Nam that found Noe in transition. Noe fired a hard wrist shot past Stathos’ glove at 6:36 of the second period for his first goal of the year.
Nam backhanded a shot past Stathos with 2:45 remaining in the second period to give the Elis a three goal advantage.
Not to be outdone, the Tigers again prepared to strike. A Bulldog penalty for too many men on the ice with three seconds left in the second gave Princeton a man-advantage to start the third period. Lombard hung tough though, shutting down Princeton’s power play with four saves in the two minute stretch.
The Bulldogs put the game out of Princeton’s reach for good as Nam, Klema and winger Chris Higgins ’05 all scored within a span of just 44 seconds in the third period.
With four more games remaining before winter break, including No. 12 Cornell this Friday, the Bulldogs hope to use their speed and penalty-killing ability to their advantage against one of the top ranked power-play units in the ECAC.
“We have to be ready to go right from the start,” captain Luke Earl ’02 said. “The key to our team is speed. We saw on Sunday that we have the speed. It’s just a matter of making some passes and improving our overall team defense.”
With Yale playing more games before January than most of their ECAC foes, the next two weeks will be especially important in determining the team’s outlook for the rest of the season.
“It’s been tough to swallow that we’ve had a couple close games,” Lombard said. “It’s very important for us to take advantage of these two weekends.”