“Cool, cool, cool,” shouted a young Yale fan as he entered the Bulldogs’ locker room. “Wow, they got a TV,” bellowed another. Bundled in snow gear, the face-painted children streamed into the dressing room in single file, eagerly seeking autographs from their favorite men’s hockey stars.
It was Youth Day at Ingalls Rink, and indeed youth was served in Saturday’s matinee. In a dominant 6-2 victory over UConn (6-16-2), Yale (3-15-1, 2-10-0 ECAC) got 28 stops from Matt Modelski ’07, as well as goals from a freshman, two sophomores and a junior, including a hat trick by center Brad Mills ’07.
For nearly 60 minutes the Elis outplayed UConn, out-skating, outworking, out-hitting, out-forechecking, out-backchecking, and, most importantly, outscoring the lethargic Husky team. Mills led Yale with three points, while wingers Christian Jensen ’06 and Blair Yaworski ’08, and defensemen Shawn Mole ’07 and Bill LeClerc ’07 had two each.
Mills started the scoring with a power-play goal at 4:39 of the first period on a one-timer from center Jeff Hristovski ’06. Winger Jean-Francois Boucher ’08 tallied his first collegiate goal eight minutes later when he tapped a rebound past UConn goalie Scott Tomes. Aaron Kakepetum narrowed the lead with a power-play goal for UConn near the end of the first.
With the help of a pass by LeClerc and a screen by Boucher, Mole also registered his first career goal. The Ontario native wasted little time in the second period before sending a fluttering wrist-shot into the traffic that had bottled up in front of the Huskies’ net.
Yale head coach Tim Taylor noticed that his team got started quickly on Saturday.
“We played a very good first period,” Taylor said. “I thought that was our best all-around period of the year. We had good speed in the offensive zone, and we got to a lot of loose pucks very quickly on both ends.”
Matt Scherer of UConn made the count 3-2 when he scored a power-play goal on a rebound at 4:14, but it would be all Yale from then on.
“We felt that we needed to dictate the pace of the game,” Mills said. “I thought we did that well. First 10 minutes, we got a ton of shots and we could have had a lot more. We just wanted to get it in deep, out-skate them down low and cycle the puck. I thought we did a great job of that.”
When Matt Grew was whistled for interference midway through the second period, Yale went to work on the power play with a dizzying array of passes that left the flat-footed UConn defense baffled and behind by two goals. Circling at the blueline, Mole dropped a pass for Yaworski, who dished it to LeClerc. Surveying the ice, the sophomore defenseman then fed a backdoor pass to Nate Jackson ’06 for the forward’s fifth goal of the year.
LeClerc, who foiled a UConn chance moments later by blocking a shot from the point, was doing it on both ends, and he and new defensive partner Mole looked very comfortable together all game.
“It’s been pretty easy to adjust,” said LeClerc, who added that playing with another left-hander did not bother him. “I think the pairing’s working well and hopefully we’ll continue next weekend.”
Less than two minutes later, now shorthanded, Jensen intercepted a breakout pass at the UConn blueline and moved on net two-on-one with Mills streaking behind the defenseman. Jensen sent a perfect pass to his linemate, who, in a move identical to the one he used to score a week earlier at New Hampshire, deked to his backhand side and lifted it past Tomes.
After yielding three second-period goals while defending the south net of Ingalls Rink, Tomes returned to the north end for the third, where he was greeted by a raucous Yale student section that did not hesitate to offer its lewdest mock-encouragement.
Early in the period a Yale student threw a dead fish near the sophomore goalie, causing a three-minute delay and prompting referee Frank Murphy to issue a warning that any more fan interference would result in a Yale minor penalty.
From that point on, the Tomes hecklers settled for verbal abuse, but the Bulldogs continued to give the sophomore fits.
Once again shorthanded, Jensen and Mills provided the home crowd with a little more entertainment. Breaking in two-on-one again, Jensen faked a shot to draw Tomes and the UConn defenseman then lofted a pinpoint saucer pass to Mills, who redirected it into the empty net.
Jensen’s creativity and tape-to-tape pass made the play happen, but after the game the winger made every attempt to deflect credit.
“If you give it to Mills and no one’s between him and the net, it usually goes in,” Jensen said.
After the goal, UConn coach Bruce Marshall pulled Tomes in favor of freshman Brad Smith, and the Yale crowd chanted “We want Tomes” after each of Smith’s four saves.
The players, however, only want Brown and Harvard, whom they will face at home next weekend.
“It’s nice to have some confidence going into this stretch of the season,” Jensen said. “Right now our record’s awful but the point is to be playing our best by the end of the year. If we’re good by the end, things will work out.”