The men’s hockey team’s effort Saturday night at Ingalls Rink would have resulted in a win against nearly any team on Yale’s schedule.
But against No. 2 Cornell’s top-ranked defense, even Yale’s ECAC-leading offense couldn’t get on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs (17-12-0, 13-9-0 ECAC, 26 pts.) fell to No. 2 Cornell (24-4-1, 19-2-1, 39 pts.) in a 3-0 game after a disappointing 4-2 loss to Colgate (14-16-4, 9-10-3, 18 pts.) Friday.
The Elis earned a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs thanks to some help from Brown, who tied and lost their games with St. Lawrence and Clarkson. Two victories by Dartmouth left Yale in a tie with the Big Green, who gain the third-place seed because of a head-to-head advantage over the Elis.
The Elis now have a week off before beginning a three-game series at home March 14 and 15 against an opponent to be determined by the first round results.
Despite backing into a first round bye, the Bulldogs were proud of their effort against the Big Red.
“I want everyone to leave this building tonight thinking they played their best game of the year,” head coach Tim Taylor said following Saturday’s contest. “We are a better team now than we were three hours ago.”
Cornell’s defense, backed by goaltender Dave LeNeveu, recorded its seventh shutout of the season. LeNeveu broke legendary goalie Ken Dryden’s long-standing record of six season shutouts while at Cornell.
“I never thought that record would ever be broken,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “I just thought there was no way.”
LeNeveu stopped 31 shots as the Bulldogs put much more offensive pressure on the Cornell net than most other teams have managed to do all season.
With the score knotted at zero late in the first period, first line forward Nick Deschenes ’03 sustained a game-ending injury, forcing Taylor to significantly shuffle the lines for the first time in weeks.
Through two periods, the Bulldogs outshot Cornell 24-20, but despite three power plays for Yale and two for Cornell, the game remained scoreless.
A quick slapshot goal from Cornell’s Ben Wallace in the Yale zone put the Big Red ahead 1-0 and temporarily quieted the sellout crowd.
Ingalls Rink was filled to capacity for the much-anticipated game, which was also Senior Night for the six members of the Class of 2003. Vocal Eli supporters included members of the women’s soccer team, who painted the phrase “Yale Hockey is Phe-NAM-enal” on their stomachs, in honor of Yale captain Denis Nam ’03. A group of Evan Wax’s friends ’03 sported a sign that said “Wax On!”
Trailing by a goal, the Elis continued to pressure LeNeveu, but the Big Red netminder stifled a number of quality scoring opportunities.
With under five minutes to play in the game, Big Red defenseman Charlie Cook fired a low slapshot that threaded its way through traffic and past Yale goalie Josh Gartner ’06, who finished the game with 23 saves.
At that point, LeNeveu said, he began to think about Dryden’s record.
“I knew I tied the record a few weeks ago, but I didn’t want to start thinking about it too early,” the sophomore goalie said. “It’s an unbelieveable feeling, but the record belongs to the team. They always play so well in front of me.”
After Cornell’s Daniel Pegoraro was whistled for hooking with 3:15 to play in the game, Yale had a chance to grab momentum with a goal. But the Eli power play was thwarted for the sixth time of the evening.
“Cornell is so strong defensively 5-on-5, so your power play has got to be good,” Taylor said. “We were 0-for-6 tonight.”
With 35 seconds left on the clock, the Big Red’s Sam Paolini slid the puck into Yale’s empty net, resulting in the lopsided 3-0 score that did not quite correspond with what was a much closer game.
“We gave ourselves something to be proud of tonight, even though it was a disappointing weekend,” said forward Christian Jensen ’06.
A night before, a disjointed effort by the Elis allowed Colgate to come out on top, 4-2. The Bulldogs looked somewhat disheveled throughout the game, although an exemplary performance by Nam stood out on both ends.
On several occasions, Nam evaded a number of Colgate defenders and took quality shots on goal, but none of them could find the back of the net.
“It’s frustrating, because I felt like I should have capitalized,” Nam said. “A lot of our guys had chances tonight, but their goalie [Steve Silverthorn] was standing on his head.”
Silverthorn finished the game with 34 saves.
Center Chris Higgins ’05 scored his 19th goal of the season when he grabbed the rebound of a shot by Vin Hellemeyer ’04 and shot the puck over Silverthorn’s stick side.
But, as they did twice in the game, the Raiders immediately responded with 2:12 to play in the first when the puck ricocheted off the boards and onto the stick of JR Bria, whose slapshot narrowly evaded Gartner’s glove to tie the game.
After Ryan Steeves ’04 earned a boarding penalty with no time remaining in the first period, the Elis fought off a Colgate power play at the start of the second, and grabbed a shorthanded goal from Hellemeyer to give themselves the 2-1 lead.
Several minutes later, a huge slapshot from Stacey Bauman ’03 at the point clanged off the crossbar.
“My eyes lit up when I saw that puck off the boards, and saw that the defense was off balance,” Bauman said. “I hate that feeling as a defender. I talked to [Pete] Cohen and he told me the puck went straight down, which means it hit off the inside of the crossbar.”
Colgate’s Dmitry Yashin tied the game again for the Raiders 4:25 into the second period. After Gartner made several initial saves, Yashin skated in and flipped the puck into the open net to tie the game at two.
Three minutes later, ECAC-leading goal scorer Scooter Smith showed his knack for scoring when he skated in, dragging a Yale defender, and one-timed a pass from teammate Kyle Doyle past Gartner for the game-winner.
“That second period we had those little momentary mental lapses,” Nam said. “They played harder than we did.”
Prior to the game, Colgate head coach Don Vaughan noted that the Bulldogs were a strong transitional team, and his trapping defense did a good job in frustrating Yale’s neutral zone play. The Elis were unable to tie the game, and with three minutes remaining, Adam Mitchell scored an insurance goal with a slapshot on an odd-man rush.
As in the Cornell game, the Bulldogs failed to convert any power play chances.
“Our inability to score on the power play was a throwback to the beginning of the year,” Taylor said. “We didn’t do what we wanted.”