After a fruitless five-on-three power play in the sixth and final period of a demoralizing weekend, winger Brad Mills ’07 skated to the bench for a line change. He cursed at the top of his lungs and the word reverberated through Ingalls Rink. Yale had finally shown a sign of life — except they were already dead.
While the football team yielded 14 points against Columbia at the Yale Bowl on Saturday, the hockey team allowed 15 goals in its two games this weekend, losing 5-2 to Alabama-Huntsville on Friday and 10-0 to St. Cloud State on Saturday.
Against UAH, the Elis got off to a good start offensively with first-period goals by forward Nate Jackson ’06 and promising winger Blair Yaworski ’08. But Yaworski showed his youth minutes later with a check from behind that resulted in his ejection.
Still, center Nick Shalek ’05, the Bulldog captain, helped kill Yaworski’s five-minute major penalty by blocking a Charger shot, then quickly clearing the puck from the defensive zone. It was the high point of Yale’s weekend.
The Bulldogs fell 5-2 to a smaller, quicker and more energetic UAH team. Last year’s NCAA Division I leading scorer Jared Ross led the way for Alabama-Huntsville with one goal, three assists and a vicious hit on Shalek. Along with his linemates, Craig Bushey and Bruce Mulherin, Ross’s creative passing and constant motion befuddled the languid Yale defense.
“We knew they were good,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said of UAH’s front line, which combined for eight points in the Chargers’ victory. “Ross is a real good college hockey player. He’s got a quick stick and he’s very creative. It’s almost like we were caught off guard by their intensity and competitiveness.”
Goalie Josh Gartner ’06 was peppered with 32 shots in the first two periods. He often stopped the first and even second attempt from the Chargers offense, but the Bulldog defense failed all night to clear rebounds and slow odd-man rushes. 0Hoping to provide his team with a spark before the third period, Taylor pulled Gartner in favor of Peter Cohen ’05 after Gartner allowed five goals. But the spark could not ignite the Elis’ offense, as Yale spent nearly seven minutes of the third period shorthanded.
“It’s kind of tough to play offense when you’re in the penalty box,” Jackson said. “When we would take a penalty it deflated us.”
Things only got worse Saturday. St. Cloud State compiled a 31-percent shooting percentage en route to scoring an un-hockey-like ten goals. Dave Iannazzo and Billy Hengen had two goals each in the Huskies’ 10-0 assault.
Each of the three Yale goalies had his chance to stop the high-powered St. Cloud State offense and each was baffled by a dizzying array of breakaways, power plays, rebounds and one-timers. Gartner started the game and gave up three goals on 13 shots. Cohen relieved him at the start of the second period and mustered only five saves on eight shots. Matt Modelski ’07 played the third period and stopped just seven of the 11 shots he faced.
“It just seems to me that we’re very fragile,” Taylor said after the loss to St. Cloud State. “If anything goes wrong, it gets worse. A penalty becomes a power play goal. A turnover in the neutral zone becomes a goal. Everything we do becomes magnified because of our inability to deal with things mentally.”
After a weekend characterized by excessive penalties, lazy defense and unimaginative offense, Yale will turn this week to the seemingly Sisyphean task of fixing their problems.
“There’s nowhere to go but up,” winger Chirstian Jensen ’06 said after Saturday night’s loss. “We took way too many penalties. We need to improve with that. We need to improve with everything.”
One positive for the Bulldogs will be the return of Shalek for their games next weekend at Dartmouth and Vermont. The Eli captain sat out the game against St. Cloud State with a bruised quadriceps. The Elis hope the senior can provide some much-needed leadership to a team searching desperately for its identity.
When asked how he would characterize the team, Jensen sighed.
“I think ‘underdog’ might apply,” he said.