The men’s hockey team suffered its first loss of the season last week at the hands of the Air Force Academy, a plane ride and two time zones from home. But this weekend’s road trip was in more familiar territory, and the Bulldogs earned more familiar results — wins.
The No. 3 Bulldogs (7–1–0, 4–0–0) began their swing through upstate New York Friday night with a 4–2 comeback victory over Cornell (2–6–0, 2–4–0), last season’s ECAC tournament champions. They kept rolling Saturday evening with a 6–4 win over cellar-dwelling Colgate (2–7–1, 0–5–1).
The pair of wins boosted Yale back to a No. 3 spot in the latest USCHO poll. The Elis had fallen from No. 3 to No. 5 in the national rankings after squandering a three-goal lead in the third period against Air Force last weekend.
“We definitely needed to learn a lesson from that loss [against Air Force],” captain Jimmy Martin ’11 said. “This was a good weekend for us, getting back into conference play and getting onto track.”
The two conference wins mean the Bulldogs are tied with Princeton (4–4, 4–2) for first place in the ECAC. But neither win came easily.
Cornell stormed out of the gate on Friday night, and headed into the locker room after the first period with the advantage in shots and a 1–0 advantage.
But once again, Yale proved to be the better team late in the game. They picked up the pace on offense, kept the Big Red from putting pucks on net, and put together a solid team effort in which no player finished with a negative plus-minus rating.
Jesse Root ’14 got things going for the Bulldogs with his first collegiate goal just 2:50 into the first period. After Antoine Laganiere ’13 created a turnover deep in the Cornell zone with his dogged forechecking, Root picked up the puck and fired a low forehand past goalie Mike Garman.
Root’s effort — the second goal by an Eli freshman of the season — tied the game, but Cornell took the lead again when Joe Devin nudged a shot past netminder Ryan Rondeau ’11. Rondeau, who has backstopped all but one of the Elis’ wins this season, stopped 15 of the 17 shots he saw.
But the Big Red lead lasted only as long as it took Yale’s dangerous first line to get on the board. Broc Little ’11 and Denny Kearney ’11 showed why they rank second and fourth, respectively, in the nation in points per game when Kearney stole the puck at center ice. He skated to the blue line before splitting two defenders with a no-look backhand pass to Little, who wristed a shot inside the far post to knot the game at two.
Cornell had a chance to take another lead with a five on three advantage late in the second period. The Bulldogs killed it off, but then Cornell’s Sean Collins skated in on a breakaway almost immediately after Chris Cahill ’11, the team’s leader in penalty minutes, came out of the box. Still, Rondeau held strong, and collapsed on the puck as it threatened to slide under him.
“The penalty kill has done a great job of getting in shooting lines and blocking some shots and disrupting the flow of the power play,” Rondeau said. “And the shots that are getting through, the guys are doing a great job of clearing out traffic.”
Rondeau made a few more big stops in the third period, and Chad Ziegler ’12 gave the Bulldogs the lead for good when he buried the rebound of a Kevin Peel ’12 shot for his third goal of the season.
The game stayed close until the waning minutes, when Cornell pulled Garman for an extra attacker. But Brendan Mason ’11 quickly sealed the game with an empty net goal, and the Bulldogs skated away from Ithaca with their sixth win of the season.
Colgate took an early lead the next night and put up a fight throughout the match, but three Yale goals in both the first and second periods were enough to quell the Raiders.
Forward Brian Day struck for the Raiders just 59 seconds in, knocking a power-play rebound into net to put his team up 1–0. But it only took five and a half minutes for the Elis to even the score, and another minute for them to grab the lead.
“Colgate’s a pretty quick team — they can keep up with us speed-wise,” Rondeau said. “Giving up a goal in the first minute of the game is something you never want to have happen, and the guys really responded with three straight goals.”
Day was sent off for tripping at 5:15, and forward Andrew Miller ’13 made the most of the power play 78 seconds later. Miller maneuvered around a defender to come in alone on goaltender Eric Mihalik — faking right before backhanding the puck left and into the net.
Colgate incurred another penalty at 7:27 and forward Jeff Anderson ’11 capitalized in just nine seconds, sending a rebound through Mihalik’s legs at 7:36. Fourteen seconds later, Root earned his second goal of the weekend and of his Yale career when he scored off a feed from linemate Antoine Laganiere ’13.
The Blue skated off the ice after the first period with a 3–1 lead and a 21–8 edge in shots. But Colgate was quick to turn the momentum around when the next frame began.
The Raiders evened the score with two goals in the first four minutes of the second period. Forward Robbie Bourdon got past Rondeau at 1:47, and defenseman Corbin McPerson’s shot from the point powered through traffic to make it 3–3 at 3:43 in the period.
“There were a couple bad bounces in the second period, off a stick or a skate,” Rondeau said. “But the team did a good job of battling through some of the adversity and getting into the game with a couple quick goals.”
Neither side scored for nearly 10 minutes until forward Kenny Agostino ’14 finally ended the drought with his first collegiate goal at 13:04. Agostino beat a defender to the net in time to knock in a rebound from Laganiere. The pair capitalized again almost three minute later when Agostino slid a cross to Laganiere, who fired a shot over Mihalik from the low slot. The Bulldogs added their third tally of the frame at 17:41 when forward Kevin Limbert ’12 passed to an open Little, who one-timed it in from the right circle. It was Little’s team-leading seventh goal of the season.
“[Colgate has] a very skilled team and we got behind early but we battled back and it was nice that we were up three going into the third,” Martin said.
Still, the Raiders didn’t let that three-goal deficit faze them heading into the final frame. Colgate outshot Yale 15–2 in the last 20 minutes — including nine straight shots after intermission — but Rondeau was nearly perfect in goal and the Elis fended off a comeback. Forward Mike McCann beat Rondeau at 7:19 with a one-timer for the game’s last tally.
“In the third period we thought we did a good job of hanging on and holding onto the puck,” Rondeau said. “I felt pretty good both games. With Colgate I felt like a couple bounces didn’t go my way but the team did a good job of giving me a cushion.”
The Blue compete next at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, when they take on Sacred Heart at Ingalls Rink.