Every hockey campaign has its ups and downs. It’s pretty clear how the Yale men’s team would classify this weekend.
The Bulldogs (12-11-4, 8-8-4 ECAC) stumbled against rivals Harvard (13-11-3, 11-7-2) and Dartmouth (10-13-4, 5-12-3) on the road, giving up a total of 13 goals and seriously hindering their chances of earning a bye in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. And the losses came on the heels of what head coach Keith Allain ’80 had called one of the best weekends of the year — a sweep of St. Lawrence and No. 12 Clarkson at the Whale.
The Elis got off to a rough start Friday night, suffering a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Crimson in Cambridge. A Bulldog victory at the Bright Center is a rare occurrence — Yale has only pulled off a visiting upset twice in the past 33 meetings — and this weekend’s contest was no exception.
The Cantabs raced to a 3-0 lead in the first period after some shaky goaltending on the Elis’ side. Netminder Billy Blase ’10 had 10 saves but was pulled after the opening frame and replaced by veteran Alec Richards ’09. Richards compiled 14 saves and gave up three goals in the final two periods between the pipes.
After another Harvard goal early in the second, the Bulldogs finally managed to score midway through the period. Forward Mark Arcobello ’10 sent the puck to blueliner Tom Dignard ’10, who slipped it past the struggling Harvard netminder to make it 4-1. But less than two minutes later, the Cantabs responded to the Elis powerplay goal with one of their own, giving Harvard a 5-1 lead heading into the second break.
The Crimson picked up a final goal early in the third period, tallying their third with a man-advantage. The Elis were unable to muster enough offense to close the gap, despite three additional powerplay chances.
The next night was a similar story for the struggling men in blue, who gave up a seven goals and 57 minutes of penalties in front of the Hanover crowd. Leading scorer Sean Backman ’10 did manage to put away a pair of goals, but he was the only Eli to light the lamp in the 7-2 loss.
The Big Green claimed a 3-0 lead with three-straight powerplay goals before the Bulldogs even got on the board in the second period. Backman got some help from Broc Little ’11 and Dignard to make a 3-1 with less than two minutes left in the middle frame, as the Elis converted their first power play chance of the night.
But that would not be enough to stop Dartmouth’s momentum, as they racked up four more in the first 14 minutes of the third period. Backman’s second tally at 15:34 gave the Bulldogs the last word of the night, but the game was already far out of reach. Dartmouth senior netminder Mike Devine – playing in the last home game of his career – may have made the difference, frustrating the Elis with superb goaltending the entire night. He and Blase finished with 29 saves apiece.
The Bulldogs have a chance to redeem themselves next weekend against Union and Rensselaer in their final homestand of the regular season. They will be looking to move up from seventh place in the ECAC standings as they prepare for post-season play, which begins March 7.