HANOVER, N.H. AND CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Neither of its star seniors, Broc Little ’11 or Denny Kearney ’11 scored a goal. Nor did Brian O’Neill ’12 or Andrew Miller ’13, its other top scorers.
Yale still earned a weekend sweep.
Ryan Rondeau ’11 sparkled in the net and six different Bulldogs scored the team’s six goals as Yale squeaked by Dartmouth, 2–1, Friday night and beat Harvard 4–2 the next day. Both the Big Green (8–5–2, 6–3–1 ECAC) and the Crimson (3–11, 2–9) mustered all the talent they had in front of their home crowds against the nation’s No. 1 team, but Yale (14–1, 8–0) showed that it can circle the wagons and play defense as well as generate flashy scoring chances. The Bulldogs now have a nine-game winning streak — the longest in the nation — and Yale’s longest in more than a decade.
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No part of the defense looked better than Rondeau, who improved his personal record to 13–0 on the season. The goaltender stopped 61 of the 64 pucks he faced, some of them on point blank shots or off dangerous rebounds.
With their goalie standing solidly behind them, the Eli forwards all contributed to the offense. Each line notched points, and only one Yale player finished negative in either game.
But not all the weekend’s news was positive.
Six minutes and 55 seconds into the third period against Harvard, the Crimson’s Jack McCollem crushed Jesse Root ’14 from behind into the boards near Yale’s bench. Root hit the glass face first and crumpled to the ice. The young center stayed down for about 10 seconds before climbing to his feet. Then he quickly swayed to the side, lost balance, and fell back down as trainers converged.
Root had to be helped off the ice, and was immediately taken to the locker room. McCollem was assigned a major penalty for boarding.
It took Yale only 40 seconds to score on the power play. Broc Little ’11 fed Chad Ziegler ’12 perfectly with a pass through the crease, and the big winger knocked a one-timer home to widen the Yale lead to 4–1. Little celebrated his assist by pointing triumphantly at McCollem in the penalty box. But neither the goal nor the gesture will shorten Root’s recovery time.
Head coach Keith Allain ’80 had no update on the injury after the game.
He did, however, have plenty of praise for his team in his first two games back from coaching the American team to a bronze medal in the World Junior Hockey Championships. Allain traveled quickly from the tournament’s site in Buffalo, N.Y. to Hanover to meet the team, and had not slept at home in more than two weeks come Saturday night’s game. Nonetheless, he said that returning to the Bulldogs was no challenge at all.
“They’re like family,” Allain said.
On Friday, that family may have received its biggest challenge since a November loss to Air Force.
Dartmouth suffocated Yale’s dynamic offense for long stretches Friday night in front of the largest home crowd in years. Yale skated away with the victory, but the heroics of Big Green goalie James Mello, who stopped 35 of 37 shots, ensured that the game was the Bulldogs’ closest win of the season.
Mello and Rondeau withstood the nation’s first- and fifth-best offenses, respectively, throughout a scoreless first period.
The Big Green not only stymied the Bulldogs with hard, controlled hitting, but also narrowly outshot the Blue in the opening frame.
The shots kept coming in the second period, and goals finally followed. Antoine Laganiere ’13 momentarily silenced the sea of green in the stands when he knocked the rebound of a Ken Trentowski ‘11 shot past Mello 7:49 into the frame.
Dartmouth’s Rob Smith tied the game with a wraparound five minutes later. But Rondeau would not allow another puck to get by him before the final whistle. And Yale got all the offense it needed from Josh Balch ’13, who scored his second consecutive game-winning goal.
“Each time we had a breakdown, Ryan [Rondeau] was there to bail us out,” captain Jimmy Martin ’11 said.
Rondeau bailed the team out especially when the Big Green followed up a successful kill of a Yale two-man advantage early in the third period with a series of odd-man rushes.
“They came out hard and we weathered the storm,” Rondeau said. “I felt like a lot of shots were from the perimeter, which is what you want.”
Allain was unconcerned with his team’s relative lack of offensive production. Still, he admitted his team let opportunities slide.
“We had some chances,” he said. “We had a couple of guys in alone, we had some good odd man rushes, but a couple of times we couldn’t pull the trigger.”
The Bulldogs pulled the trigger more often in their 4–2 win against the struggling Crimson, who are the lowest-scoring team in Division I. Once again, the teams skated to a scoreless tie at the end of the first period, but Yale had seized the game by the final frame.
“We gave up more chances than we’d like, but I liked how we wore them down by the third period,” Allain said.
Twelve Elis registered one point apiece in an effort that showcased the squad’s depth and special teams play. Yale converted two of seven power plays, though one of those advantages came at the expense of the injury to Root.
“You hate to see anybody go down, and Jesse [Root] is a really talented player,” said Kenny Agostino ’14, who scored in the game. “But thankfully we have a deep team and guys who will be willing to step up.”
The hit was no exception as Harvard played a particularly rough hockey game.
“When you’re number one, teams are going after you,” said winger Brendan Mason ’11, who scored in the game and was a physical force all over the rink. “They’re hungry after the whistle.”
Despite the physical play, Yale had chances to show off its speed and offensive prowess. Although he had been an unexplained late scratch against Dartmouth, Chris Cahill ‘11 shook off rumors about his NCAA eligibility with a blast past Harvard goalie Ryan Carroll during a second period power play.
The senior’s tally gave Yale a 2–0 lead. But Harvard pulled within a single goal 5:32 later when Danny Biega scored his first of two goals.
The Elis refused to let the home team keep the momentum going. Mason one-timed a pass from Charles Brockett ’12 through Carroll’s legs 4:53 into the third period to make the score 3–1, and the Crimson never threatened seriously again.
Mason’s effort was a rare goal from Yale’s trio of defensive-minded forwards. Mason, Brockett and Ziegler typically go up against opposing team’s top lines. They pride themselves on shutting opponents down, not necessarily looking for flashy goals, according to Mason.
That goal ensured that Yale extended the longest current winning streak in the country to nine games, and maintained their grip on the top ranking in the polls.
“It’s unbelievable where we are right now,” Agostino said. “But it’s still early in the season.”