They may have been exhibition games, but the men’s hockey team’s performances this weekend gave Bulldog fans a glimpse of the team”s early season potential.
Over the weekend, six different Bulldogs scored goals as Yale tied the US National Under-18 Team Sunday 3-3 after defeating Western Ontario 5-3 Saturday. Both games were played at Ingalls Rink in front of crowds of over 1000 people.
Sunday, forward Chris Higgins ’05 scored two goals and forward Ryan Trowbridge ’05 contributed one score as Yale skated to a tie with the Under-18 Team.
Comprised of the best 18-and under players in the country, the team was “as fast as any team we’ll play all season,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “They play the same style we want to play.”
In the first period, Yale was able to beat the national team at its own game, playing with fluidity, speed and precision. The Elis outshot Team USA 10-2. With just over 10 minutes remaining in the first period and the Elis playing shorthanded, Higgins stole the puck from a USA defender and skated in alone, beating goalie Chris Holt to put the Bulldogs up 1-0.
“If you look at the shot chart, you can see we did a good job in the first period — there’s a lot of blank space on the page,” Taylor said.
Just 15 seconds into the second period, Higgins scored again off an assist from defenseman Joe Callahan ’05, who picked up two assists in the game. But Team USA responded when Ryan Maki beat Yale goalie Pete Cohen ’05 from the left side, cutting the Elis’ lead to 2-1.
The Elis let Team USA creep even closer to victory three minutes later, when T.J. Hesnick shot the puck from a tight angle and squeezed the puck inside the right post to tie the game at two. Yale quickly responded when Trowbridge took a shot near the left face off circle that found the back of the net. Callahan was credited for another assist.
“There were ups and downs with the way we played in both games this weekend,” Trowbridge said. “That’s to be expected having only had 10 practices or so coming into these games.”
Team USA’s Dustin Collins tied the game for the second and final time 4:34 into the third period, when he backhanded a pass from Hesnick past goaltender Josh Gartner ’06, who took over for Cohen in the third period.
The Bulldogs had several chances in overtime, with the line of wingers Ryan Steeves ’04 and Vin Hellemeyer ’04 and center Evan Wax ’03 giving Team USA quite a scare with about two minutes left in the game.
Gartner kept Yale in the game with a huge save on a close shot with a minute remaining in overtime.
“I’m not making excuses for the boys, but I think they got pretty tired,” Taylor said. “We had practice five days this week and two games this weekend — seven straight days. I think they’re looking forward to having tomorrow off.”
The Yale goalie tandem combined for 18 saves, while Team USA’s Holt recorded 37. Yale gave up 21 shots to Team USA, but Taylor said that he was pleased with the defensive effort.
“Our goal is to hold team to single digit shots each period,” he said. “In the second period I think we stumbled a bit, but I’ll take it.”
Saturday, Yale played Western Ontario in a game where each goal was scored by a different player.
“The Canadian team was older and smarter than [Team USA],” said Higgins.
Trowbridge, winger Nick Deschenes ’03, and rookie Joe Zappala ’06 each scored for Yale, while Steeves and Wax contributed a goal and an assist each.
Yale was not as defensively effective against Western Ontario, as the Bulldogs gave up a number of quality shots.
“I think we need to work on blocking shots, and not letting too many get to the net,” defenseman Jeff Dwyer ’04 said.
Yale peppered Western goalie Mike Boyce with 54 shots, of which he was able to stop 38. In goal for the Bulldogs was Pete Dobrowolski ’03, who saved 14 shots in two periods, and Gartner, who added three.
“It was good to get started and finally get on the ice,” Higgins said.
The Elis begin their regular season when North Dakota visits Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
Although the Elis were only playing exhibition games, they showed a good deal of potential early on.
“We haven’t quite gelled as a team yet as we are still experimenting with line combinations, but the heart and desire was there,” Trowbridge said. “That is the toughest thing to get, and we have that. The other stuff will come as the season progresses.”