The men’s hockey team played impressively for the first 30 minutes of both their games this weekend, but twice tough opponents capitalized on mid-game mistakes and opportunities to take the game away from the Elis.
The Bulldogs (1-11, 1-9 ECAC) fell to Cornell (6-2-2, 3-1-1 ECAC) and Colgate (12-4, 5-1 ECAC) due mainly to the eight second-period goals the Elis gave up in the two games. The Elis lost 6-2 to the No. 12 Big Red and 4-1 to the No. 13 Raiders. Despite returning home from their New York road trip without another win, the Elis played physically in the first period and refused to give up after tough second periods.
Yale head coach Tim Taylor said he was proud of the effort shown by his skaters for most of the two contests.
“We played hard, gutsy hockey for the duration of both,” Taylor said. “There was certainly no ‘quit’ in our effort.”
In the first period against Cornell, the Bulldogs came out with fierce determination and played physically. When the Big Red did beat the Elis in their own territory, goalkeeper Matt Modelski ’07 stepped up to make the necessary 11 saves.
“[The Big Red] had some wide open chances,” center Brad Mills ’07 said. “Modelski played unbelievably in the first period. He had some unbelievable saves.”
Modelski also played well in the second period, recording 14 saves against a Big Red offense that would not quit. Despite Modelski’s second-period saves, Cornell was able to capitalize on a power play to put one past Modelski almost nine minutes into the second frame. It was downhill from there for the Elis as the Big Red lit the lamp another four times in the second.
Taylor said the team played with as much focus in the first period as it has played all year, but the Big Red found a way to come out very much on top in the second period.
“Territorially I thought we were where we wanted to be [at the end of the first period],” Taylor said. “That carried over eight or nine minutes, and then we had that section of time that has been killing us all year. Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. We gave up five, and in Lynah Rink that puts the game out of reach.”
Forward Joe Zappala ’06 said Cornell was probably the best team the Bulldogs have faced so far.
“We had a really good game Friday night, a lot of guys agree,” Zappala said. “We played them even the first and the third, but in the second we had that 10 minute lapse and lost that section 5-0.”
Zappala contributed to one of two Eli goals that night with his assist to forward Blair Yaworski ’08 in the third period. Zappala got a quick pass out from captain Nick Shalek ’05 and took the puck down to the opponent’s blue line. There he connected with Yaworski before drawing the Big Red defensemen toward him. This helped give Yaworski time to get a shot off from the middle that rebounded once before he put it past Cornell goalie David McKee, who had 22 saves on the night.
The Bulldogs also managed to find the net earlier in the third period during a power play. Off the rush, Mills was breaking right as defenseman Matt Cohen ’07 snapped a quick pass to him for his first career assist. Mills then used his speed to get around Cornell’s Jon Gleed and get a snap shot off to the top corner of the far side. McKee was not able to square up in time and Mills got the goal.
The game versus the Raiders was similar, including another frustrating second period for the Bulldogs. After again holding their opponents scoreless in the first period, the tired Elis again ran into trouble against a home team that cranked it up a notch in the second, Taylor said.
“I think penalties were a factor,” Taylor said. “We had more penalties than they did. We spent lots of time killing penalties in the first and second.”
Colgate outscored the Bulldogs 3-1 in the second period, with Yale’s lone goal coming from winger Christian Jensen ’06 at 13:37. The Bulldogs’ first line of Jensen, Mills, and Jeff Hristovski ’06 worked together to light the lamp. Hristovski took the puck and fed it to Mills, who was streaking right. Mills beat some defensemen but did not have a great angle for a shot, so he snapped it in to Jensen in the middle. Jensen quickly deflected it in for the goal. Taylor said it was a good play all around.
Despite the loss, Zappala said it was one of the Bulldogs’ most solid weekends.
“We played Colgate pretty even again,” Zappala said. “They capitalized on the mental breakdowns, like losing focus and some lazy turnovers in the middle of the ice that will send the [opposing] team down on a one-man rush.”
Down 3-1 going into the third period, the Elis had a chance to keep the game from slipping away when they gained a man advantage early in the frame. But the Elis could not find the net and the Raiders capitalized on a power play of their own to notch another goal to increase their lead to three. The Bulldogs were 0-for-5 on power plays while the Raiders were 1-for-7.
With finals approaching, the Elis are now focusing a little less on hockey. But when they return to New Haven Dec. 26, they will be gearing up for the Wisconsin Holiday Tournament. The Bulldogs will match up against No. 2 Wisconsin Dec. 31 and then play either Ferris State or Clarkson Jan. 1. After that, they will return home, where their next contests are versus St. Lawrence Jan. 7 and against Clarkson Jan. 8.
Taylor said they are looking towards the game against the formidable Badgers first, especially since it is no simple task to take on a top team at the opponent’s home rink.
“For us to win, given the way our team is made right now, we need to play what would amount to a perfect defensive game,” Taylor said. “We can’t make any defensive breakdowns seem fatal to us in terms of putting the other team on board. It’s a hard task to ask a hockey team to go 60 minutes without a breakdown, though. This is a collective situation. I honestly believe if the kids don’t lose faith and keep working together they will start producing some goals.”