Playing by the rules really does matter, as the men’s ice hockey team discovered Saturday in a come-from behind 7-2 win in a home scrimmage against Western Ontario.
Still adjusting to new Division I obstruction rules, the Bulldogs faced several man-down and 5-3 situations in the early minutes. Following the first 9:58 of the game, the Elis were down 2-0 after the Mustangs’ Kelly Paddon and Shawn Thompson capitalized on power play opportunities, putting the puck past goalkeeper Peter Cohen ’05, who played in half of the game and earned 22 saves.
The NCAA has issued a mandate to cut down on the clutch-and-grab style of defense used to prevent off-the-puck skaters from being able to receive a pass.
“It’s going to clean the game up a lot and speed up the tempo,” forward Joey Zappala ’06 said of the new rules. “Teams like Brown and Cornell rely on their size and clutch-and-grab, so we’ll really be able to use our speed and get some power-play opportunities.”
After initially struggling with the tight officiating, several Bulldogs felt that the defense, especially the penalty kill unit, showed its true colors over the course of the game.
“Our penalty kill was at around 90 percent, which is great,” goaltender Josh Gartner ’06 said, who relieved Cohen and finished with 20 saves. “It’s one of those things that usually takes a little bit of time. It’s awesome to see guys contributing and working hard on the penalty kill.”
Once the Bulldogs settled down and avoided the gratuitous penalties, they were able to play more disciplined defense.
“During the rest of the game, we did a better job of preventing [straight-on] shots,” defenseman Matt Craig ’06 said. “[We adjusted] to the way Western was moving the puck around on their power play.”
And with those adjustments, the Elis immediately generated offense in a dominant fashion. Playing in a man-down situation, Zappala got the Bulldogs on the board at 14:31 off an assist from forward Christian Jensen ’06. Just over two minutes later, Jensen and Craig combined on a power play to set up Zappala again.
“Our power play is starting to come together,” Jensen said. “But we need it to be really clicking by next weekend [against St. Cloud State].”
Forward Brad Mills ’07 ended the first period scoring off a feed from forward Blair Yaworski ’08. Limited to only one goal in the second period from forward Jean-Francois Boucher ’08, the Bulldogs erupted in the third period, scoring three goals to end the game. Overall, the Bulldogs had a balanced offensive attack, with 14 different players notching either an assist or a goal. Zappala and Boucher contributed two goals apiece.
With rankings of 9th and 10th in the preseason ECAC Coaches’ and Media polls, respectively, the Bulldogs are out to prove themselves this season; and the Western Ontario scrimmage showed a bit of that attitude.
“The two goals were a set-back, but there wasn’t one guy on our team that didn’t think we were going to win,” Craig said. “We were out-skating, out-hitting and out-chancing Western in even-man situations right from the start. It was just a matter of connecting on some of our chances and staying out of the penalty box — which we could’ve done a better job of.”