The men’s hockey team struggled to stay consistent during its first major road campaign of the season.
After two big wins against league foes No. 15 Dartmouth (5-3-2, 4-3-2 ECACHL) and Harvard (3-8-0, 2-7-0), the Elis moved into third place in the ECACHL and broke into the national rankings for the first time in at least six seasons. But the Bulldogs faltered in two overtime matches later on, tying Mercyhurst (3-7-3) and falling to No. 10 Boston University (5-2-4).
On Nov. 17, the Elis made the trek up to Hanover, N.H., to face a well-seasoned Dartmouth squad. Heading in to the game, the Big Green was clearly the favored opponent, having won 12 of the last 13 contests against Yale, including the last five.
After a scoreless opening period, leading scorer Sean Backman ’10 put the Bulldogs ahead off a pass from forward Mark Arcobello ’10 just 49 seconds into the second frame. As the period drew to a close, the Elis widened their edge to two when Rob Page ’08 converted a pass from defenseman Bill LeClerc ’07 with a one-man advantage.
The Bulldogs wasted no time in the third, making it 3-0 just moments after the face-off. Backman sent the puck to Arcobello, who notched his first goal in Yale blue 19 seconds into the period. Dartmouth finally managed to get on the scoreboard at 5:58, but captain Matt Cohen ’07 answered back on a power play several minutes later. With just over a minute left to play, the Big Green slipped the puck past goalie Alec Richards ’09 but could not muster enough offense to overcome the Elis’ 4-2 lead.
The Yale defense played a crucial role in the victory, holding the potent Dartmouth offense to just 16 shots. Eli special teams also had a good night, allowing the Big Green just one success in nine power play opportunities.
“That was a great game,” forward Blair Yaworski ’08 said. “They are one of the stronger teams in our league, and they are a team that we have lost to numerous times in a few years. To come out with the win sort of put us on track with the rest of the season, and it led into the Harvard game.”
Although Richards made just 14 stops in the Dartmouth victory, he saw a lot more action the next night in Yale’s 5-2 upset over Harvard. He came up with 32 saves to help the Elis improve their league record to 3-1 and earned honors as ECACHL Goalie of the Week.
The Bulldogs got off to a quick start when forward Chris Cahill ’10 fired a shot at Crimson freshman goalie Kyle Richter in the first minute of the game. Although Cahill’s shot was deflected, Mike Karwoski ’09 crashed the goal for the rebound and put the puck in the back of the net. Playing with a two-man advantage, the Cantabs responded when captain Dylan Reese fired a high shot over Richards’ shoulder to tie the score at 10:09. But the Elis took back the lead in the same period, when Backman tallied his sixth goal of the season off a feed from forward Jean-Francois Boucher ’08.
Harvard managed to tie the score once more in the beginning of the second before the Bulldogs ran away with the lead. Cahill, Cohen and Yaworski tallied a season-high three power play goals in the final two periods, while Karwoski and LeClerc each added two assists.
“We came out a little bit slow and a little bit tired at first, but things picked up, and we had a very good showing toward the later part of the game,” Yaworski said. “One of our stronger areas is finishing off well in the second and third periods.”
The USCHO.com poll that came out after the weekend rated the Elis as the No. 17 team in the country, a nice recognition for the players’ hard work, head coach Keith Allain ’80 said.
“I think the wins made an important statement about what we can achieve if we play as a team,” Allain said. “Our energy and enthusiasm were outstanding. The guys played together, stuck to the game plan, yet were able to improvise when the situation called for it.”
Perhaps still a bit tired from back-to-back weekend games, the Elis took home a disappointing 4-4 tie against Mercyhurst last Tuesday. Although Yale was the favored squad, they were surprised by the Lakers, who dominated at the beginning, scoring two consecutive goals within the first five minutes.
“I think we may have underestimated the team that we were playing,” Arcobello said.
But the Bulldogs managed to cut Mercyhurst’s lead in half before the period ended in an all-freshman effort, when defenseman Tom Dignard ’10 crossed the puck to Arcobello, who set Backman up to score.
In the second, the Elis surged ahead 3-2. Playing with a one-man advantage early on, Yaworski sent the puck along the boards to Arcobello, who buried a shot in the back of the net. Later in the period, Yaworski tallied another assist, setting up teammate Patrick Brosnihan ’09 to score his first collegiate goal.
The Bulldog defense struggled in the beginning of the third, and Mercyhurst capitalized on two opportunities to take a 4-3 lead. Arcobello tied the score at 7:32 off an intercepted pass, but his goal was the last that either team was able to score. The Lakers had the lone shot on goal in a scoreless overtime period that ended in a 4-4 draw.
“There was no satisfaction in the tie at Mercyhurst, but my hope is that some valuable lessons were learned in the process,” Allain said. “We did do a nice job of competing after we fell behind early, but my sense is we did not come into the game with the proper mentality.”
On Saturday, No. 10 Boston University dealt the Bulldogs a difficult overtime loss, 2-1. Both regulation goals came on power plays in the first period. A few minutes after Luke Popko’s goal for BU, the Elis capitalized on a two-man advantage to set up Brosnihan for his second goal in two games.
Despite numerous near misses, neither team was able to get back on the scoreboard in the second or third frames. The Terriers jumped to an early lead nine seconds into the overtime period and held the Bulldogs scoreless until time expired to get the win.
Although the Bulldogs were disappointed with the loss, players said they felt it was an evenly played game, and they proved that they could compete with one of the top programs in the nation.
“We believe that we can skate with any team in the country, so it wasn’t really a surprise that it was a close game,” Arcobello said. “I think we felt that we played really well.”