Clarkson converted once on eight power plays against Yale Friday night. The Bulldogs were unsuccessful on seven chances. But only Chris Cahill ’11 turned one of those advantages the other way.
Cahill’s two goals — one of them shorthanded — assist and series of big hits kept the sellout crowd at Ingalls Rink on its feet as No. 1 Yale took control late in the third period to beat Clarkson, 5–2. The win reaffirmed the ability of a Bulldog squad (16–2, 10–1 ECAC) that saw its 10-game winning streak snapped by the upstart Brown Bears in a 3–2 third period comeback last Sunday.
“It’s a huge win for us, getting back on track,” captain Jimmy Martin ’11 said. “The third period, to come out with the lead, give it up, and then still battle off and win is huge for us against a team that was playing us tough. I think our sense of urgency really kicked in there and we knew we had to step it up and try to take the game over.”
The game looked far closer than the final score until the last minute, when Yale tallied a pair of goals. For almost three entire periods, the two teams traded unsuccessful odd man rushes and struggled to score despite a combined 15 power plays.
Those included a fruitless two-man Yale advantage that lasted more than a minute with the game tied in the third period. But Yale came up short, as it did on all seven man advantages in the game. That scoreless performance was an aberration for a power play unit that had been converting on almost 27 percent of its chances, the second best clip in the nation.
The Bulldogs’ speedy forwards struggled against a bruising Clarkson squad with 12 skaters of six feet or taller — Yale had five. The Golden Knights used their size advantage all night, and Andrew Miller ’13 and Kevin Limbert ’11 were among the Elis who suffered particularly hard hits. The squads combined for 34 penalty minutes Sunday night.
“They’re a pretty big team and there was a lot of extra stuff after the whistle,” Kenny Agostino ’14 said. “We tried to stay away from all that, but there was a lot of hitting today.”
So Yale fought back. Martin took a roughing penalty after he exchanged punches with Clarkson’s Brendan DeFazio, Limbert’s aggressor. Chad Ziegler ’12 and Cahill each rattled the boards with big hits. Despite that physical play, Yale triumphed with its signature finesse.
Brian O’Neill ’12 drew first blood with style when he took a leading pass from Cahill and led a rush into the Clarkson zone. He split two defenders and found himself alone with Clarkson netminder Paul Karpowich, who he deked before sliding the puck inside the far post.
Clarkson responded to O’Neill’s effort five minutes later, when Nick Tremblay rifled a rebound past goaltender Ryan Rondeau ’11 for the game’s only power play goal, which knotted the score at one.
Once again, Yale responded with flair. Cahill played one of Yale’s best shifts of the season when, with the Elis down a man, he forced a bad pass by dropping a Clarkson defender along the boards. The puck slid straight to Limbert, who found Cahill all alone at the blue line. The winger skated in on the breakaway and beat Karpowich with an ankle-breaking deke.
Despite Cahill’s shorthanded heroics, penalties continued to irk the Elis. They and the Golden Knights both took four infractions in the second stanza, but neither team could convert. The third period began with the score still 2–1 in the Elis’ favor, and some confidence on the home team’s bench, according to Agostino.
‘We’re a very conditioned team,” he said. “The third period’s our period.”
But Clarkson quickly evened things up — although not while Mason waited out the remains of his penalty. Julien Cayer snuck the puck inside the post from a bad angle as Mason skated out of the box, evening the score at two.
The situation was eerily similar to last Sunday’s loss at Brown. In that game, Yale skated into the final period with a 2–1 lead but lost composure and allowed two unanswered goals. Friday night, however, the tying goal spurred them into action.
“On some teams, a goal like that would make you weaker,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “But it appeared to make us stronger. We came right out after they tied it and I thought we had our best moments after that.”
A fruitless Yale five-on-three advantage that lasted 1:11 was not among those best moments. But the Elis refused to let the visitors seize the momentum after the penalty kill, and three minutes later Agostino notched the game-winning goal.
The winger — whose five points against Holy Cross on Jan. 2 tied the record for Yale freshmen — corralled a long pass from Josh Balch ’13 and skated to the net with a Clarkson defender draped all over him. As he held off the blueliner with one hand, he used the other to flip the puck over Karpowich’s outstretched pad. The superb individual effort showcased a talent Allain said has blossomed in the past month.
“I thought that, like a lot of freshman, [Agostino] was just okay up until the Christmas break, but he came back after the holiday almost like a different person,” Allain said. “He had it figured out. He knew what it took and he had a different level of confidence. We’re seeing that right now.”
The game after Agostino’s score was all Bulldogs. Clarkson never threatened again, and when the Golden Knights pulled their goalie with just over a minute to go, it took Denny Kearney ’11 less than ten seconds to steal the puck and score an empty net goal from the red line. That tally made the score 4–2 with just 47 seconds to play. The Yale attack wasn’t done, nor was Cahill.
As the final minute ticked down, Cahill wound up for a last shot after receiving a feed from Miller. Karpowich made a stop, but the Yale forwards relentlessly crashed the net as the crowd counted down from ten. They had almost finished when Cahill grabbed his own rebound and set the red light flashing. Eight tenths of a second remained on the clock. After a meaningless final faceoff at center ice, the Bulldogs saluted the home crowd having begun a new winning streak.
Yale plays next at 7 p.m. Saturday against Saint Lawrence.