If there was ever a rematch to The Game, Yale fans would have wanted it to be the men’s hockey game on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs (3-3-3, 2-2-3 ECAC) fought tooth and nail to earn a 3-3 tie with No. 15 Harvard (5-2-1, 4-2-1) in a thriller at the Whale yesterday. The Elis bounced back from behind three times to thwart their arch rival and earn a point in the tightly packed conference.
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“It was a real good hockey game,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “We didn’t quit — we just kept coming back.”
The scoreless opening period set the tone for the rest of the game, as the two squads skated neck and neck in a very physical contest. The Bulldogs outshot the Crimson, 14-7, but could not crack Harvard netminder Kyle Richter, who is currently the No. 1-ranked goalie in the country.
In the second period, the visitors surged ahead with the lone goal of the frame. Cantab freshman winger Mike Biega recorded the first score of an eventual hat trick at 4:47, shooting in a picture-perfect goal that netminder Billy Blase ’10 could not stop. Although the Elis had several more Grade-A scoring chances, they still could not get the puck past Richter before the second break.
But the Elis’ luck changed in the final frame. Captain Will Engasser ’08 knotted the score early in the period, tallying a goal at 1:20 off the rebound from a Mike Matzcak ’11 shot.
The Crimson took the lead again at 9:20 thanks to a power-play goal by Biega, but the Bulldogs had an answer for that as well. Only 38 seconds later, forward Mark Arcobello ’10 launched a wrist shot from the left side of the goal to tie the score at 2-2 and keep alive the Elis’ hopes for an upset.
The Cantabs, however, were not about to give up, and Biega lit the lamp for the third time with just under five minutes remaining. The Crimson bench roared when their squad reclaimed a 3-2 lead, and as the minutes on the clock wound down, it looked as though the Bulldogs were going to be handed a difficult loss in their home rink.
But the Elis managed to muster a spectacular comeback with one final goal to send the game into overtime. After a timeout with 1:39 remaining, Blase was called off the ice to give Yale the extra skater. The Bulldogs continued to pressure the Crimson blueliners as they had throughout the game, and the push paid off when rookie Denny Kearney ’11 found the puck in traffic near the Crimson goal and buried it in the back of the net.
“The puck was just sitting there, and I just whacked at it,” Kearney said. “It was nice to get a bounce at the end of the game.”
Neither squad could find the back of the net in the extra period, so the Bulldogs left Ingalls with a hard-earned tie. Blase — who was named ECAC goalie of the week last week — finished the night with 23 saves. Forward Sean Backman ’10 also had a strong performance, contributing an assist on each of the Eli goals.
For the Bulldogs, almost every player who stepped on the ice seemed to play with tenacity during the game.
“Playing against a rival, especially Harvard, always brings a good vibe to the rink,” Engasser said before the game. “Their defensive play has been solid throughout the whole year, and all the teams they have played have had a very tough time scoring on their goalie.”
The win is a good indicator for the Bulldogs’ future prospects in the ECAC, as the Crimson are currently ranked as one of the best teams in the conference.
“[The squad] showed me a lot [last night],” Allain said. “To be a winning team, you have to have character. This is a pretty good way to develop it.”