In a rare change of pace, the men’s hockey team headed for warmer climates as temperatures dropped in the Elm City over the weekend.

The Bulldogs (8-7-3, 4-4-3 ECAC) returned from the South with a split against Alabama-Huntsville (3-13-2) in their final weekend of non-ECAC action. After pulling off a 3-2 victory on Friday night at the Chargers’ rink, the Elis dropped their second match of the weekend before returning home to frigid New Haven.

“We could have done more to ensure that the second game had gone our way,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “This weekend will only be valuable if we use the experience to get better as a team.”

The one-goal victory on Friday started things off on the right foot for the Elis, although a hairy second period nearly tipped the scales in the Chargers’ favor. Alabama-Huntsville erased a 2-0 deficit, notching back-to-back goals within a six-minute span to give the visitors a scare.

In the first stanza, the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the opening frame off a Mike Karwoski ’09 goal moments after he got out of the penalty box at 4:29. In spite of a goal from Matthew Thomey ’08 early in the second, however, the Chargers were able to tie the score at 2-2 by midway through the period.

But a draw was the closest the Bulldogs would allow UAH that night. With less than 30 seconds left in the middle frame, rookie Jeff Anderson ’11 picked up a loose puck in the left circle and buried a high shot in the back of the net to give the Elis a 3-2 edge going into the final break. Netminder Billy Blase ’10 stopped 13 shots in the third period to secure the victory for the Elis, giving them their first win since a 3-2 victory over Brown on Jan. 5.

Saturday night, however, the Elis found themselves on the losing side of a 3-2 decision after a third-period surge by the home team. The Bulldogs drew the first blood in the opening period, getting a goal from forward Sean Backman ’10 at 7:20. But the Chargers responded soon after, converting a power play to knot the score at 1-1 with six minutes left on the clock.

In the second period, the visitors reclaimed the lead when forward Denny Kearney ’11 grabbed the rebound from a Jimmy Martin ’11 shot and handily put it in the back of the net. But the Chargers were not finished, scoring back-to-back goals with a man advantage in the final frame to take their first lead of the night. Despite two more power-play chances, the Elis could not get a goal in the remaining minutes.

“Their goalie played pretty well,” Backman said. “We had a couple of chances to score late in the game, but we didn’t get our bounces. It could have gone either way.”

Continuing a trend that began during the Bulldogs’ winter-break campaign, both of the primary Yale goalies got a start this weekend. Alec Richards ’09 put up 23 saves in his second start of the season, and Blase had 30 stops on the way to his eighth win Friday night.

From this point forward, the Bulldogs will face only conference opponents leading up to the ECAC playoffs in early March. Captain Will Engasser ’08 said the Bulldogs are confident heading down the stretch.

The Elis return to ECAC action next weekend with another tough road trip to upstate New York, where they will face league foes Colgate and Cornell.

“My expectations are to have a great week of practice and go up north prepared to play our best hockey of the season,” Allain said.