On a miserable Saturday for Yale athletics, there was one bright spot — the men’s hockey team picked up a 3-2 road win over St. Lawrence University.
While thousands of football fans were pouring into New Haven for The Game on the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Bulldogs (3-3-2, 2-2-2 ECAC) prepared to take the ice in upstate New York — where the ground outside was covered in snow — to face SLU (4-6-2, 1-4-2) on Nov. 18 after having played No. 8 Clarkson (9-3-0, 6-1-0).
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Although the Elis dropped a tough 1-0 decision to the Golden Knights on Friday, they rebounded with a 3-2 victory over the Saints and moved up to fourth place in the conference on a day when Yale’s football team went down to Harvard in disgrace, 37-6.
“After coming off a tough loss to Clarkson on Friday, our focus was coming out of the road trip with at least one win,” captain Will Engasser ’08 said. “Although we started slow against St. Lawrence, we picked it up and took over against a team in their own building in the second and third periods.”
After a scoreless opening period Friday night, ECAC frontrunner Clarkson snapped the 0-0 draw towards the end of the second frame.
Forward Chris D’Alvise found a streaking David Cayer on the right side of the ice, and Cayer one-timed the puck into the net to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 edge. Despite several quality scoring changes, the Bulldogs could not find the equalizer in the final period.
“Our defensive positioning kept their scorers in check, but we failed to capitalize on a few offensive opportunities,” Engasser said. “After the game we knew that we let a game against one of the top teams in the country slip away from us.”
But the next night, the Elis found themselves on the winning side of a one-goal margin as they spoiled the Saints’ weekend with a 3-2 victory. It had been nearly two years since the Bulldogs had won a game against the Saints, who swept Yale last year on their way to a regular season ECAC championship.
Things did not fall the Bulldogs’ way early on, however. Just 29 seconds after the opening faceoff, SLU put one away to place the Elis at an immediate disadvantage. But forward Sean Backman ’10 evened the score at 15:27, converting a feed from Engasser for his third goal of the season.
The Saints pulled ahead yet again early in the second period, and once again the Elis responded. Forward Chris Cahill ’10 got the puck from defenseman Jimmy Martin ’11 to knot the score, 2-2, with 6:29 left in the second period.
Six minutes later, forward Broc Little ’11 took a feed from Matthew Thomey ’08 in the low slot and knocked it past SLU goalie John Hallas on a powerplay. With the lead in hand, the Eli defense settled down to protect the net for the next 21 minutes and took home the victory.
“It was a good win,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said after the game. “They jumped on us early and came at us pretty hard. We weathered the storm and got contributions from all four lines.”
Netminder Billy Blase ’10 finished the night with 33 saves, giving him 58 over the course of the weekend. Blase — who earned ECAC Goalie of the Week honors for his performance — has played an integral role in the Bulldogs’ success thus far this year. Teammates said they have confidence in his ability to protect the net from teams with offensive lines as potent as Clarkson’s and SLU’s.
The Elis were off for the remainder of the holidays and rested up as they prepared to take on archrival No. 18 Harvard on Wednesday night at Ingalls Rink. The Bulldogs sit just one win behind the Crimson in the ECAC standings and have the opportunity to move toward the head of the pack if they can pull out a victory this week.
Last season, Yale swept its archrival in 5-2 and 5-1 games. If the win over the Saints is any indication, the squad may be able to produce a similar result this year.
“It was a much-needed win in our league, which is very close from first to last place,” Engasser said.