STORRS, Conn. — It wasn’t supposed to be this close for the men’s hockey team.
After defeating UConn (2-6) 9-1 last year, the Bulldogs (3-1-0, 1-1 ECAC) needed a last-minute lucky bounce off a Mark Arcobello ’10 shot to beat the Huskies 2-1 here at the Mark E. Freitas Ice Forum.
After the game, captain and right winger Matt Nelson ’09 acknowledged that despite the team’s high expectations for the season, the close contest against UConn reminded the team that no win would come easily.
“Games like this show you that no matter what your record is, who you’re playing, you’ve got to play hard.”
Arcobello scored both goals for the away squad, who bounced back from an early second period deficit on to eke out a gritty victory.
Goaltender Ryan Rondeau ’11 was strong in net for the Elis in his first start of the season. The Carvel, Alberta, native only made 18 saves, but had some key stops to keep the score knotted at one before Arcobello’s game winner at 19:01 in the third period.
Head coach Keith Allain ’80 was very pleased with his netminder’s performance, especially considering the tough environment.
“Ryan played very well,” he said. It was great for him to get his feet wet on the road, in a very tight game.”
The Elis had a 34-19 advantage in shots on target yet were almost forced to play an extra period of hockey due to strong play – especially in the 3rd period – from Husky goalie Beau Erickson, who had 32 saves in the effort. Allain, a former Eli and NHL goaltender, called Erickson UConn’s best player on the night.
After an even first period in which the Bulldogs had only one more shot than their opponents, the Huskies grabbed the lead 4:33 into the second frame by a break-away slap-shot goal by forward Justin Hernandez.
Following a back-and-forth exchange where both teams had good looks on goal, the Huskies found themselves on a 2-on-1. Forward Chris Ochoa slotted a precise pass to Hernandez, who carried the puck up the right side of the ice and blasted a shot into the lower left corner of Rondeau’s net.
Yale responded positively to the goal, but were further helped by a bittersweet penalty on UConn’s Pat McAuley 7:13 into the period. The Husky forward violently elbowed Eli defenseman Nick Jaskwoiak’12 into the boards, causing the blue-liner to land on his back. He would remain there for minutes before being carried off the ice by the UConn medical staff on a stretcher. Jaskowiak was brought to a Hartford hospital, but he called to ask about the progress of the game.
The major penalty on McAuley gave the away squad a five-minute power play, and after another UConn penalty, Arcobello levelled the score on a man-up situation. Left winger Denny Kearney ’11 found the Milford, Conn., native open on the weak side with a quick centering pass to get the assist.
The Bulldogs continued to dominate play, outshooting UConn 13-8 in shots on goal during the second period, yet were unable to take the lead.
Penalties dictated much of the flow of the third stanza, with each team getting offensive opportunities on man-up situations. The Elis benefited from four UConn penalties – two of which resulted in a 5-on-3 situation, while the Huskies were a man up for five minutes due to a major hitting from behind that resulted in center Kevin Lambert ’12 being ejected from the contest.
The away squad’s best chance came midway through the period during the major penalty, when right winger Broc Little ’11 fed Kearney for a point-blank shot after a skillful wrap-around. Somehow, Erickson managed to save the attempt – whether due to amazing reflexes or sheer luck.
Rondeau made two nice saves in the final five minutes of the game, enabling Arcobello to score the game-winner on a shot that caught Erickson – and the rest of the rink – off guard.
From the same spot on the ice where Jakoniak lay about an hour before, Arcobello tried a shot from a seemingly impossible angle in the corner of the rink with less than a minute left on the clock. According to the center, his shot took a lucky deflection.
“I knew there wasn’t a lot of time left in the game,” Arcobello said. “I just threw it at the net. I’m pretty sure it hit the D-man’s skate and went between the goalie’s legs.”
Despite the fluke goal, Allain saw his team’s game-winner as a just recompense for their dominating performance on offense.
“I hoped it wouldn’t go down to the final minute, but UConn competed very hard,” he said. “We had so many grade-A opportunities that didn’t go in. It figures that’s the way it happened.”
The Bulldogs welcome ECAC rival Brown (0-3-1, 0-1-1) to Ingalls Rink on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Elis defeated the Bears, 6-3, in their first showdown on Nov. 1 in a non-conference match-up.