After 10 goals and nearly 100 shots in a weekend sweep, the nation’s highest-scoring team is back in a tie for first place in the ECAC.
A week after being shut out 4–0 by RPI in what players and coaches called one of their worst performances of the year, the No. 8 Bulldogs came from behind to defeat Dartmouth 4–2 before dismantling Harvard 6–3 the following day at Ingalls Rink. The Elis (14–6–3, 10–4–2) outshot their opponents by a combined margin of 98–50 in the two games.
“Shooting has been a big focus for us,” right winger Broc Little ’11 said. “Coach [told] us to not pass up any opportunities.”
Buoyed by two strong performances from goaltender Billy Blase ’10 — the senior entered the second period of Friday’s contest and had his first start of the season on Saturday — Yale’s two wins moved the Bulldogs into a three-way tie for first place with No. 20 Union and No. 5 Cornell. The Big Red, though, have played one fewer game than both teams.
After Yale had split the past three series, head coach Keith Allain ’80 said it was important for his team to get a sweep.
“If you want to keep pace you need to get two in a weekend,” he said after the win against Harvard. “It just feels good to do that again.”
On Friday the Elis rode a three-goal second period to victory against the Big Green (6–16–1, 4–11–1). With his team trailing 2–0 after the first period, Blase replaced Nick Maricic ’13 and shut down Dartmouth for the rest of the game, earning Yale a 4–2 win.
Things didn’t look too promising for the Bulldogs early on. Despite recording the majority of the scoring opportunities, the Elis quickly found themselves down 2–0 after the first period.
Blase, who had only played 12 minutes this season, found himself in front of the goal to start the second frame. He said that he had been given no hint that he might find himself playing that night.
“I just prepare the same way every night,” the senior netminder said. “There was no possible way that I could have known that I was going in, but at least I was ready for it.”
And Yale responded.
With the Big Green on the power play, center Mark Arcobello ’10 stole the puck and put it past Dartmouth goaltender James Mello for the shorthanded goal at 6:16.
Three minutes later, Little also had a breakaway, but the right winger was brought down from behind by a Dartmouth defenseman, resulting in a penalty shot for the home team.
Although Little had been 0-for-2 on penalty shots in his career, Allain said that he could tell that Little was confident.
“When the ref called the penalty shot I saw Broc bang his stick on the ice and get real excited,” Allain said. “It showed me he wasn’t worried about it.”
Little added: “I just went down to the other end and collected my thoughts. I tried not to think about it too much. We do shootouts in practice, so I knew what I was going to do before I went in.”
Little was able to make his tying score look easy as he deked right and then went left to the open side of the net for an easy put-in.
And he wasn’t finished.
With less than three minutes left in the second period, Little received a pass from left winger Denny Kearney ’11, who was behind the net. His shot in front of goal gave the Bulldogs the 3–2 lead.
The power play goal came after a big fight between the teams that saw two players from each team penalized, including Dartmouth’s leading scorer Scott Fleming, who was ejected after hitting right defenseman Jimmy Martin ’11 from behind.
The third period was tightly contested, and it wasn’t until right winger Sean Backman ’10 scored on a power play at 17:36 that the Bulldogs took the 4–2 lead.
The goal unleashed a big celebration at Ingalls Rink, with Backman pounding his fists on the glass in front of the student section.
It was the first time this season that Yale had won after being down at the end of the first period.
The final 1:40 saw the Big Green with a two-man advantage — Little had been called for slashing and Dartmouth had pulled its goaltender — but Yale did not allow any shots on goal.
After the game Little said that the presence of Blase in front of goal gave him and his teammates a boost in the second period.
“I think putting Billy in there really sparked us,” Little said. “I feel good that we got that win for him.”
With Blase receiving his first start of the season the next night against Harvard, the Elis went 3-for-4 on power plays, with six different Elis scoring in the 6–3 victory over the Crimson (6–13–3, 6–7–3).
The game capped off a particularly emotional weekend for Blase, who admitted to sometimes fearing that he would not get another chance to play for the Bulldogs.
“There were times where I just didn’t really think I was going to get another opportunity, to be honest with you,” he said. “It just feels a lot better to start, I’ll put it that way.”
Yale’s offense looked just as dangerous in the first period as it had during the final 30 minutes versus Dartmouth. They outshot Harvard 17–4, gaining a 2–0 lead after the first period.
Left winger Jeff Anderson ’11 hit his own rebound in for the game’s first score at 9:05. Five minutes later, right defenseman Kevin Peel ’12 one-timed it from the high slot, the puck sailing through traffic before landing in the back of the net.
The Crimson fought back, though, scoring midway through the second period on a power play and then tying the game, 2–2, just seconds into the final frame.
Three minutes later Harvard came close to taking the lead on a shorthanded shot, but a Cantab forward missed hitting the loose puck in on the rebound.
On the ensuing Eli possession, center Brendan Mason ’11 raced toward a group in front of the net with the puck on the power play, and his deflected shot somehow found its way into the net.
The score was followed by a 5-on-3 Yale power play after two Crimson players were penalized in a ten-second span. Left defenseman Tom Dignard ’10 had a slap shot goal at 4:54 and then Little put it away at 9:47 with the goal of the night, making it 5–3.
With a defender on his tail, Little received a pass from Arcobello, raced down the left side of the ice, weaved right and then flicked a back-hander into the top of the net before spinning out of control.
“I just leaned in on the goalie and got a nice backhand off,” Little said. “I didn’t see it go in, but I looked around and everyone was celebrating.”
The acrobatic goal capped a three-goal, seven-point weekend for Yale’s leading goal scorer. Little is also second in the nation in goals per game.
Harvard went on to score at 11:28 and had a 6-on-4 advantage during the final two minutes, but Backman ended the game by stealing the puck and walking it into the net for the sixth Bulldog goal of the night.
Depending on conference tournament matchups, this may prove to be the last time the Yale seniors take on their rivals from Cambridge.
“It was a special win tonight,” Backman said. “If that is my last Yale-Harvard game, then that’s the way I want to have it.”
Ingalls Rink has now sold out five consecutive games. Yale goes to upstate New York next week to face sixth place Colgate and No. 5 Cornell.