With a three-goal lead 12:36 in the third period Friday night against Harvard, the men’s ice hockey team was cruising to victory, but the Eli defense self-destructed and allowed the Crimson to capitalize on Yale’s weakness, scoring five goals in the final frame to earn the come-from-behind 7-5 victory.

Despite the best efforts of Yale goalie Josh Gartner ’06, who made a career-high 51 saves, the Cantabs (9-11-2, 7-8-1 ECAC) knocked the wind out of the Elis (11-12-0, 9-7-0) and the sold-out Ingalls Rink crowd with three goals in 61 seconds. Things did not get any easier for the Bulldogs Saturday night as they lost 4-1 to nationally ranked No. 12 Brown (14-5-4, 12-3-1).

Yale head coach Tim Taylor was not available for comment after the Harvard game.

“A lesser person, a lesser team would fold,” Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni said. “We had to meet that challenge, and I’m very proud of the way the guys continued to play.”

It did not take long for the Crimson to get on the board in the third period. Less than four minutes in, Dennis Packard collected the puck at point-blank range on the power play and beat Gartner to pull Harvard within two.

The Elis gained back some momentum, killing off a 5-3 disadvantage for roughly one minute. Gartner repeatedly stonewalled the Crimson, making several key saves during the shorthanded stretch.

But Harvard forward Tyler Kolarik opened the floodgates at 12:36. A missed pass along the boards came to Crimson defenseman Tom Walsh, who put a shot on net. Kolarik knocked the rebound home.

The Cantabs’ defensemen were active in the offensive zone throughout the night.

“You see what kind of difficulty that causes for teams,” Kolarik said. “When you get the [defensemen] down and you get the third man high you’re able to pinch your defensemen and be aggressive. I just thought we executed our system very well, only for 40 minutes.”

Just over a minute later, goals from Tim Petit and pre-season All-ECAC defenseman Noah Welch gave Harvard the lead for good. BrendanÊBernakevitch iced the game with an empty-netter at 18:52.

While nothing went right for Yale in the third period, they had the Whale rocking in the first, taking a four-goal lead into the intermission.

Winger Joe Zappala ’06 got things going at 12:55, catching a beautiful Jeff Dwyer ’04 pass and drilling his team-leading 17th goal, a shot that trickled past Crimson goalie John Daigneau. Matt Craig ’06 put Yale up 2-0 with his first of the year on a questionable call — the entire puck did not appear to cross the goal line on a shot from the point.

After a Nate Jackson ’06 tally, Jeff Hristovski ’06 dazzled the crowd for his 10th goal of the season, undressing two Harvard defensemen and beating Daigneau with under a minute left.

Hristovski’s goal chased Daigneau from the net, as he was replaced by Dov Grumet-Morris at the start of the second.

The Crimson started chipping away at the Yale lead in the middle frame, setting the stage for its unlikely comeback.

“You can’t allow a team to score four consecutive goals like that,” Mazzoleni said. “When that happens, we lost our composure, but what’s even more important is the way we responded.”

In the third period, it was the Elis who lost their composure.

The Crimson finished with an astonishing 58 shots on goal compared to Yale’s 29, and the score could have been much worse if it were not for Gartner’s tremendous play in net.

On Saturday night, the Bulldogs played a much better defensive game at even strength, drastically reducing the amount of shots allowed, but special teams made the difference in the Bears’ victory.

Brown brought the nation’s best penalty kill and third best power play into New Haven and put both to use, scoring two power-play goals and adding one shorthanded tally in the victory.

“It’s not a team that gives you much and we knew that going in,” Taylor said. “One of our game plan bullet points was to stay out of the box and we didn’t do a very good job at that.”

The Elis gave Brown five power-play opportunities in the game.

The Bulldogs went 0-6 on the power-play, with Hobey Baker candidate and the nation’s leader in save percentage, Yann Danis, dealing out plenty of frustration, making 34 saves.

“[Danis is] so solid,” Taylor said. “He does leave rebounds, but his statistics are outstanding. He’s [also] the benefactor of a very solid defense in front of him.”

Brown’s Brent Robinson opened the scoring at 5:41 in the first when he tallied on the man advantage on a one-timer from the slot.

The Elis knotted the score at one with Hristovski’s second goal of the weekend, putting home a rebound at 18:22.

But the Bears took the lead for good in the second with a power-play goal from Vince Macri, who snuck into the slot and buried a one-timer at 11:19.

Despite three man-advantage opportunities in the third, the Elis could not capitalize on the power play, and a shorthanded goal from Nick Ringstand and Mike Meech’s sixth of the season put the game out of reach.

The Bulldogs played a physical game against the much bigger Bears. Brown boasts three defensemen 6’3″ or taller, while Yale’s tallest forwards are Mike Klema ’04 and Nate Murphy ’04, both at 6’1″.

“This weekend, both against Harvard and against Brown, we improved our physical play,” Taylor said. “It’s something that we had to do. If there’s any ray of light on a double loss at home at this time of the year, it is that we played better in the physical part of the game and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.”

The Bulldogs return to action this weekend when they hit the road for games against Cornell (10-7-6, 8-5-3) and No. 15 Colgate (15-8-5, 10-4-2). Yale has not lost on an opponent’s home ice since Nov. 30.

“We’ve proven we can win on the road,” Dwyer said Saturday night. “[We have to] work hard and forget about this weekend. If we dwell on last night, we’ll never recover. We can build off tonight. We have confidence.”

News and Notes:

Ninth-ranked University of Wisconsin fared much better against No. 1 University of North Dakota last weekend than Yale did in its first two games of the season. The Badgers swept the Fighting Sioux 4-3 and 5-2, with Wisconsin goalie Bernd Bruckler making 66 saves in the two-game set. Harvard takes to the ice this afternoon in the consolation game of the Beanpot at the Fleet Center in Boston, Mass. Rivals Boston College and Boston University meet in the championship game. Former University of Vermont star Martin St. Louis, who holds the Catamount records for goals and points, played in his second NHL All-Star game yesterday in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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