Keith Kinkaid entered Sunday’s game with the nation’s fourth best goals against average. But the Union goaltender hadn’t faced Yale yet.

The No. 2 men’s hockey team (10–1, 6–0 ECAC) torched Kinkaid for five goals en route to a 5–0 shutout of the No. 13 Dutchmen (8–3–3, 3–2–1) at Ingalls Rink on Sunday. As Kinkaid statistics suffered, Yale’s Ryan Rondeau ’11 rode his shutout – Yale’s first since Alec Richards ’09 blanked Cornell in March 2009 — to rise to sixth in the country in goals against average.

“He’s been playing phenomenally lately, and if he keeps that up, it makes the defensemen’s job easy” said blueliner Nick Jaskowiak ’12, who had his first goal of the season in the game. “It’s a great confidence for our team.”

The Elis complemented Rondeau’s jewel between the pipes with an efficient penalty kill and a stellar effort from the second line of Chris Cahill ’11, Andrew Miller ’13, and Brian O’Neill ’12, who combined for 10 points.

As the final buzzer sounded, as is custom, the Elis saluted the crowd, and the student section erupted into a chant of “We’re number one!”

Yale will have to wait until Monday afternoon before they see if the nation’s voters agree with the blue and white faithful. After No. 1 Minnesora-Duluth lost to Denver on Friday, it is possible that the Bulldogs could rise to a No. 1 ranking, unprecedented territory for the team.

On Sunday afternoon the Elis — whose defense has sparkled in the past two games — killed two early penalties, and from then on the first period was all blue and white. When Dutchmen forward Cole Ikkala was caught cross-checking at 11:58, the Yale offense jumped into high gear.

The Bulldogs set up on the power play and, after a pair of agonizingly close misses on cross-ice feeds, Miller found O’Neill at the far post. O’Neill set the buzzer sounding when he wristed the puck at a tough angle between the pipe and the sprawling Kinkaid’s shoulder at 13:07.

The Dutchmen regained a degree of control as the period wound down and peppered Rondeau with a flurry of shots in the final minute. But Rondeau turned everything away in what marked his fifth consecutive start, and ninth this season.

“I feel like the way I’ve been playing, I expect to start — or I hope to start,” said Rondeau, who was Yale’s fourth string goaltender for much of the season, only appearing in three games. “I don’t expect anything.”

The senior goaltender continued to stand tall when Union came out of the locker rooms for the second period with fire in their veins and sent 17 shots his way. In no other period did they test him more than eight times.

Nowhere were Rondeau’s saves more important than the two full minutes late in the period that Yale spent down two men.

Jaskowiak had already given the Elis a 2–0 lead with his first goal of the season 8:47 into the period. The defenseman took a pass from Miller as the Bulldogs flew up ice, swept into the slot, and buried a wrister over Kinkaid’s shoulder at 8:47.

But then Miller and O’Neill were sent off for high-sticking and tripping, respectively, with 2:39 left in the frame, giving Union a five-on-three.

Head coach Keith Allain ’80 dispatched Mike Matczak ’11, Denny Kearney ’11, and Jimmy Martin ’11 to stand against the best offense Union could muster. And for 1:41, Rondeau and the trio weathered the onslaught without a break. The crowd rose for a thunderous standing ovation when Rondeau was finally forced into action, and thundered once more when the penalty ended and the teams returned to even strength.

Yale, which headed to the locker room to more cheers when the period ended 30 seconds later, rode the momentum from that penalty kill to a murderous third period.

Miller got things going midway through the frame when he outmuscled two Union defenders on a drive toward the goal. Kinkaid denied his attempt, but Cahill had followed the play and was there to punch in the rebound.

Cahill knocked home his second tally of the night three minutes later when he led a two-on-one rush, kept the puck himself, and beat Kinkaid on a wrister. Despite leading the team in penalty minutes with 44, the left winger has been an instrumental part of the team this season. His six goals are fourth on the team, and he also has seven assists.

“He’s certainly a big piece [of the team],” Allain said about the winger who returns to the team after spending last year in France. “Any time you can add that speed, that physical skill, it gives a certain edge to your hockey team.”

Cahill’s goal was unassisted, but Miller and O’Neill were on the ice — as they had been for the Bulldogs’ three previous goals. On a night when Union held both Broc Little ‘11 and Kearney — Yale’s most potent scorers — without a point, the second line seemed to have the Dutchmen’s number.

Miller had four points and O’Neill and Cahill both notched three. The only goal which they watched from the bench was an unassisted Kevin Limbert score with 1:06 left to play, which widened the lead to 5–0.

The Bulldogs’ final game before their winter break will be a non-conference contest against Vermont, which ousted Yale from the NCAA Tournament two years ago. The puck drops at 7 p.m.