In a player meeting Saturday night following its 3-2 loss to Ohio State Friday, the men’s ice hockey team determined one thing could make the difference Sunday — momentum.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs (6-11-2, 5-5-2 ECAC) controlled the momentum as they avenged the loss with a 6-2 trouncing of No. 11 Ohio State (14-8-2). With the win, the Elis split the weekend and snapped a six-game losing streak against non-conference opponents. Goalie Peter Cohen ’05, who made his first start since playing Dec. 29 against Miami of Ohio, led the Bulldogs with 30 saves. On offense, wingers Vin Hellemeyer ’04 and Denis Nam ’02 led the Bulldog attack.
Hellemeyer led the Elis with three goals and one assist over the weekend while Nam and defenseman Joe Callahan ’05 each had a goal and assist in Sunday’s victory.
This weekend, the Bulldogs stayed true to their penchant for one-goal losses. After losing their seventh straight one-goal game Friday night, Sunday’s victory leaves Yale riding high as it enters a weekend break before its final 10 games against ECAC opponents.
“[The win was] a big confidence booster,” Nam said. “We knew we could play with the best teams in the country. Now we know we can get the win.”
Although the Buckeyes outshot the Elis in both contests, Cohen saved the Bulldogs time and again from what could have been a much closer contest Sunday.
One of Cohen’s big saves came on a penalty kill early in Sunday’s final frame. With the Bulldogs leading 3-2, Ohio State winger Scott May received a pass at the Bulldog blue line and skated in alone. Unable to get Cohen on his knees early, May wristed a shot that Cohen deflected with his right pad.
“Cohen stood on his head for us,” Hellemeyer said. “That save really got us going.”
The Elis led from wire to wire Sunday, but following Buckeye captain Jason Crain’s goal at 6:26 of the third period, the Bulldog lead was cut to 3-2. After three minutes of subsequent Buckeye pressure, the Bulldogs cleared the puck to the neutral zone. Callahan collected the puck and skated just inside the blue line, where he rifled a shot that bounced through traffic before finding the back of the net.
The Elis added some more insurance when winger Chris Higgins ’05 skated circles around Buckeye goaltender Mike Betz and then left the puck outside the crease for Hellemeyer. Hellemeyer shot the puck through two defensemen and past Betz to put the Bulldogs ahead 5-2.
With a three-goal margin late in the third period, the Bulldogs had turned around what could have been a disastrous weekend.
“We were all joking at the airport that if we had lost the second game, we would be on the runway trying to get in the way of the airplanes as they landed,” Nam said. “It was a huge win. You could see it in the guys that we weren’t going to lose.”
The second frame was no different from the third in terms of scoring, as the Bulldogs outscored their opponents 3-1. On the physical end, however, the second period was emotionally charged, featuring two scuffles between Bulldog and Buckeye players.
Before the first roughing call of the night, the Elis opened the scoring when Callahan kept the puck in the zone and found Nam between the circles. Nam charged toward Betz before unleashing a wrister that hit the stick-side post and found the back of the net 2:27 into the second period.
Just over six minutes later, captain Luke Earl ’02 mixed it up with the Buckeyes when he went airborne and crashed into Betz while trying to get his stick on a rebound. Betz retaliated by punching Earl, and defenseman Thomas Welsh then jumped Earl from behind. While Earl was sent off for roughing and elbowing, Welsh received a double minor for roughing.
“I don’t know what Luke was thinking when he did that,” Nam said. “Everybody fed off of it though. It was fun. We were riding each other’s emotions.”
On Friday, in a game that had 11 fewer penalties than Sunday’s contest, the Bulldogs lost their seventh one-goal game.
“That was the story of our season, another one-goal loss,” Hellemeyer said about the 3-2 loss to the Buckeyes. “We decided from here on in it’s a new season. We can’t keep coming so close without winning.”
Buckeye center R.J. Umberger got the scoring started early for the Buckeyes when he skated in between defensemen Rob Mutter ’02 and Mike Grobe ’05. Umberger wristed a shot that beat goaltender Dan Lombard ’02 high to the glove side 5:12 into the first period.
After another Buckeye goal 6:51 into the second, the Bulldogs got on the board for the first time with a power-play goal from winger Evan Wax ’03. On the man-advantage, defenseman Jeff Dwyer ’04 and Hellemeyer both had shots on net before Wax had his own attempt stopped. Wax then collected the rebound, pulled the puck back from the crease, and deked around Betz to score.
The goal, which was the Elis’ first power-play goal in the last 16 attempts, ended Betz’s shutout streak at 154:08 and brought the Elis to life halfway through the game.
After another Bulldogs goal 7:18 into the final frame that evened the score at two apiece, center Ryan Steeves ’04 drew an obstruction penalty on the next shift. The Buckeyes capitalized on their third and final power-play opportunity of the night to take the lead for good at 3-2.
“I personally take the blame for that one,” Lombard said. “That was my time to make plays, and I didn’t. I just froze when the puck came across the crease.”
The Bulldogs have lost games to nationally ranked non-conference foes No. 4 New Hampshire (17-4-2), No. 7 Boston University (14-5-2), No. 12 Ohio State and No. 13 Boston College (12-10-2). In the process of losing, however, the Elis acquired valuable experience against the nation’s best programs, experience that the Bulldogs hope will make a difference when they begin their final 10-game stretch with home games against Clarkson (9-8-4, 5-1-3 ECAC) and St. Lawrence (6-13-0, 4-5-0 ECAC) Feb. 1 and 2, respectively.
“We’ve learned enough lessons and played enough tight games that I don’t think we’re a young team anymore,” Lombard said. “Hopefully, our experience will turn into a good stretch run.”
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