Next time the football team needs help on offense, they might want to give men’s ice hockey head coach Tim Taylor a call. After all, he did guide the Elis to a 7-3 victory over Union Saturday night, matching the football team’s result against Princeton earlier that afternoon.
Yale (3-2-0, 3-1-0 ECAC, 6 pts) got points out of 12 of its 18 skaters over the weekend, sweeping Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (5-7-0, 1-3-0, 2 pts) and Union (4-4-3, 2-1-1, 5 pts) by 5-2 and 7-3 margins in front of sellout home crowds.
“It was nice to see us score so many goals on the weekend,” said head coach Tim Taylor, who is five victories shy of 300 wins. “I was very pleased to see the scoring spread around.”
Rookie winger Christian Jensen ’06 tied the freshman single-game goal scoring record with a hat trick against Union Saturday. Defenseman Bryan Freeman ’03 did the same thing in his first collegiate game at Vermont in 1999.
“I must have gotten lucky, I guess,” Jensen said. “If you can say so, we have benefited from injuries by letting young players get playing time early. We haven’t been losing, so I guess it’s been a good thing.”
Playing without veteran forwards Mike Klema ’03 and Nate Murphy ’03, the Bulldogs got contributions from Jensen as well as forwards Jeff Hrivstovski ’06 (1 goal, 2 assists) and Zach Mayer ’06 (1 assist) this weekend.
“This was an opportunity for the freshmen to get quality ice time and experience, and all of them answered the bell,” Taylor said. “This is going to be a very good class when all is said and done.”
Taylor added that defenseman Matthew Craig ’06 “quietly had a very good weekend.”
The newcomers were not the only players to contribute for the Elis. Captain Denis Nam ’03 added two goals against Union, and center Ryan Steeves ’04 notched a goal and four assists over the two games.
In addition, Steeves won the majority of the faceoffs he took, twice leading to Bulldog goals immediately off the faceoff.
“The feeling in the locker room is really good,” Steeves said. “We’ve gotten off to a rare start.”
With three wins in their first four league games, the Bulldogs have already achieved in four tries what it took eight tries to do last year.
After a first period wrist shot by forward Evan Wax ’03 beat Union goaltender Tim Roth, Yale went into the second period with a 1-0 lead and exploded for four goals in the middle 20 minutes.
Just six minutes into the second stanza, forward Chris Higgins ’05 misfired on a breakaway shot but collected his own rebound behind the net and passed to a streaking Vin Hellemeyer ’04, who snapped the puck top shelf over Roth. Just over a minute later, Nam had his first of two goals on a wraparound to give the Elis a 3-0 lead.
Union’s Kris Goodjohn responded with a well-executed power play goal, but, as they did all weekend, the Bulldogs wasted no time in responding to the score. Defenseman Joe Callahan ’05 took a shot from the point that Jensen tipped in to begin his hat trick. Roth was subsequently pulled from the game.
The Bulldogs responded to four of the five goals they gave up this weekend with a goal of their own.
“I think that just shows a lot of character,” Nam said. “If we give up a goal it doesn’t kill us and it won’t crush us.”
Another bright spot for Yale, especially against Union, was its improved power play. While the Bulldogs did not score a power play goal against the Dutchmen, their extra man units were noticeably more organized and deliberate in their passing, generating much more offense than in previous games. Against RPI, Yale went 1-4 on the power play.
“We didn’t score on the power play but I thought we got some pretty good looks from both units so I’m happier with it,” Taylor said.
Heading into the third period with a 5-1 lead after another Jensen goal, the Bulldogs survived two Union goals and countered with two goals of their own from Nam and Jensen to earn the 7-3 victory.
Jensen said he owed his record game to linemates Steeves and Wax.
“Those two are great players and it’s easy to play with them,” he said. “They’ve played together in the past and it’s real easy to come in.”
Taylor said that while defensively he sees room for improvement, the Bulldogs played well enough to win.
“I thought this weekend we bent but didn’t break defensively,” he said.
Friday, Yale’s victory came in a much more unorthodox fashion. Despite missing a number of breakaways throughout the game, the Bulldogs scored two shorthanded goals to give them the momentum necessary to win.
“You don’t see that too often,” Higgins said of Yale’s two shorthanded tallies. “Shorthanded goals are the most important kind you can get.”
Higgins opened up the scoring midway through the first period while Yale was fighting off an elbowing penalty to Wax. The sophomore center poked away the puck in Yale’s defensive zone, and Hellemeyer gained control.
Hellemeyer then hit Higgins with a through-the-legs backhanded pass, and Higgins outskated an Engineer defenseman nearly the length of the ice before wristing the puck over RPI’s Kevin Kurk.
Yale played a man down for nearly the entire first half of the second period, including a five-on-three situation for RPI that lasted over 30 seconds. The Bulldogs successfully killed off the four Yale penalties and got their second shorthanded goal of the game when Steeves won a faceoff in the Yale zone, sending the puck to defenseman Jeff Dwyer ’04, who scored from the point.
In the third period, the two teams traded goals after forward Nick Deschenes ’03 slipped the puck past a sliding Kurk for Yale’s first power play goal of the game. The Engineers responded with a power play score of their own, but Steeves answered back when he stole the puck at center ice and faked out Kurk for a breakaway goal.
The Engineers tried one last time midway into the third to get back into the game. Rookie of the Week Kevin Croxton beat Yale goalie Pete Cohen ’05 stickside with a wrist shot from about five feet out.
But Hrivstovski scored his first collegiate goal with less than four minutes remaining to give Yale its final 5-2 victory.
Cohen was solid in net all weekend, making a number of big saves to ensure that Yale would preserve its leads. He finished the weekend with 52 saves.
“He’s given up six goals in three games, and 2.00 is a pretty good goals against average to have,” Taylor said.
He added that he has been extremely impressed with Cohen’s mental approach to the game, especially during the penalty-ridden RPI game.
“They say the best penalty kill is always the goaltender, and he stood up to the challenge,” Taylor said.
The two victories for Yale, combined with the results of some other weekend games, have led to early Ivy League dominance of the ECAC. The top four in the ECAC are Brown, Harvard, Cornell and Yale, all from the Ancient Eight.
The Bulldogs will try to preserve their dominance in the ECAC when they travel to Dartmouth (3-3-0, 2-2-0, 4 pts.) Nov. 22 and Vermont (3-5-2, 1-3-0, 2 pts.) Nov. 23.