After sweeping the regular season series against St. Lawrence and compiling a perfect overtime record, the men’s hockey team found itself in two overtime games against the Saints in the first round of the ECAC playoffs March 5-6 at Ingalls Rink.
While they overcame deficits in both games, the Bulldogs were unable to find the net in the extra frame, allowing SLU to squeak out two 4-3 victories to advance and send the Elis packing for vacation earlier than they hoped.
“They were great games,” defenseman Joe Callahan ’05 said. “It was a tough way to go out. We played well in both games, it was two tough bounces. [In the first game] it was kind of a bounce for them that gave them the win. We really thought we outplayed them the second night. It was just a tough flick of the puck. As disappointing as it was, we played two great games.”
In the opening game of the ECAC playoffs, the Bulldogs came out flying, as forward Ryan Steeves ’04 found the twine just 14 seconds into the game, off a pass from forward Jeff Hristovski ’06.
Yale was able to increase its lead with both teams at even strength — Robert Burns ’07 found Nate Jackson ’06 who fired in a wrister.
Late in the first, the Saints cut the lead in half when forward Rich Peverley found linemate T.J. Trevelyan alone on the doorstep for a score.
The Bulldogs went into the first intermission a man down after winger Joe Zappala ’06 took a roughing penalty as time expired.
What happened early in the second frame was most unexpected. Down a man and trying to clear out the opposing players from his crease, Eli netminder Josh Gartner ’06 hit SLU’s Kyle Rank with the butt end of his goalie stick. On a very questionable call that left Eli fans booing the refs, Gartner was ejected for spearing and was forced to sit out the following night.
Down two men and lacking his starting goalie, Yale head coach Tim Taylor turned to his veteran netminder Peter Dobrowolski ’04, who promptly shut down SLU on their power play.
“We responded very well, but the bottom line is that we lost our number one goaltender,” Taylor said. “Peter Dobrowolski came in and just played terrific hockey in the first game. We put Matt Modelski in the second game, and I thought he did okay. Whether you can point to the goaltending issues as the reason why we failed to win or not I don’t know. I thought the team did very well rallying in the face of adversity.”
Late in the second after a pileup in front of the net, SLU’s Stace Page threw in a rebound to tie the game, and with just 18 seconds remaining in the second period, Saints forward Jamie Parker fired a slap shot over Dobrowolski’s shoulder to give his team the lead.
Dobrowolski shut down SLU’s powerful offense in the third, sparking the Elis. With a man advantage Jackson netted his second of the night, off a shot from Callahan at 3:06. The home crowd erupted as the game went into overtime, where the Bulldogs had been so consistent this season.
Yale continued its offensive pressure in the extra period but was repeatedly turned away by SLU goalie Mike McKenna. With less then two minutes remaining in the first overtime, the Saints fired a shot on Dobrowolski, who made the initial save, but Page backhanded the rebound to capture the game-winning goal.
The second game found St. Lawrence feeding off the momentum from Friday’s overtime win. SLU defenseman Jeremy Cormier blasted a shot past Yale goalie Matt Modelski ’07 just 3:59 into the game.
Minutes later, the Saints struck again when defenseman Drew Bagnall wristed a shot from the point that found the upper corner.
Both goalies shut the door until late in the second when Bulldog Christian Jensen ’06 came in on a breakaway but lost control of the puck; fortunately captain Vin Hellemeyer ’04 was there to tap in the rebound at 17:18 of the second.
Only 29 seconds later, the Saints regained a two-goal cushion when Peverley fired in a slapshot from the top of the right circle.
With time winding down in the third period, the Eli offense kicked into gear as Jensen redirected a Callahan shot at 13:50. With 1:36 left in regulation and Yale still trailing by one, Modelski skated to the bench for an extra skater.
The sixth man gave Yale the extra push — blueliner Jeff Dwyer ’04 skated towards the net before finding Hellemeyer in front. The Eli captain kept his team’s hopes alive with his second goal of the game at 18:51.
Only 5:14 into the extra frame, SLU forward John Zeiler fired a cross-ice pass to Peverley who faked a forehand shot before backhanding in the series-winner and ending Yale’s season.
While the Bulldog’s year did not pan out the way the team hoped, there were aspects that the Elis will try to carry on to next year.
“The whole season nobody gave up,” Hellemeyer said. “We stayed positive and everyone supported each other and kept pushing for each other, it could have been a little better, but if guys didn’t stick together it could have been worse too. Sticking together as a team was the most important thing.”
ECAC Tournament Results:
In the quarterfinals, St. Lawrence fell to top-ranked Colgate. Elsewhere in the ECAC playoffs, sixth-seed Harvard defeated No.11 Vermont in the opening round. The Crimson moved on to upset No. 3 Brown by a score of 3-2 in overtime of the deciding third game. Harvard’s success continued in the semifinals, where they took down Dartmouth in three games to advance to the championship. The Cantabs battled it out with Clarkson, who began the playoffs ranked ninth. With just 38 seconds left in regulation, the score was tied 2-2 when Harvard’s Kenny Smith wristed in a shot to break the deadlock. Dennis Packard iced a 4-2 ECAC championship victory with an empty-netter. “I think it shows you how topsy turvy our league was all year,” Taylor said. “Harvard was a team with a losing record a month and a half ago, and now they find themselves ECAC champs and in the NCAA Tournament. Harvard has a veteran team; they have a lot of great seniors who all got going in the right direction late in the season, and I think they are rallying around that leadership, and it [has] paid big dividends for them.” Harvard will represent the ECAC in the Division-I NCAA playoffs where they face top-ranked University of Maine in the opening round March 26. “Harvard was definitely a good team,” Hellemeyer said. “I thought they were a lot better than their record showed this year, and they definitely proved that in the playoffs. I think they will hold their own. It will be good for the league if one of our teams goes far in the tournament. I wish them luck.”
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