Two games ago, Yale lost. Last game, it just barely won. Saturday night, it won with flair.
The Bulldogs dominated offensively for almost the entire game, Broc Little ’11 broke out of his scoring slump with the game-winning goal, and No. 3/2 Yale (19–4, 13–3 ECAC) rolled to its third victory of the season over No. 17 Dartmouth (13–7–3, 9–5–2).
“It was huge to get back on track,” Little said. “We just focused on skating, keeping our feet moving, and I think that’s the biggest thing. Teams can’t handle our speed.”
Yale’s struggling offense was facing a familiar nemesis: Big Green goalie James Mello, who almost stole the game for the home team when the Elis traveled to Hanover in early January. As Yale’s offense clicked and blitzed him at the rate of almost a shot a minute through the first period, Mello seemed like he might steal this game as well.
The diminutive, 5-foot 9-inch goalie certainly played the part of the villain. During stoppages in play, he repeatedly skated over to the Yale student section, banged his stick on the boards, and beckoned the blue and white faithful to bring it on.
The Elis on the ice brought it.
Charles Brockett ’12 made up for an early Big Green goal when he deflected a Nick Jaskowiak ’12 shot past Mello midway through the first period, and the Bulldogs never looked back. Indeed, a Yale attack that has struggled to generate early game momentum for much of the season — including against Harvard Friday night — didn’t take long to click on Saturday.
The Elis surged in front of another crowd that hung from the rafters at Ingalls Rink. While Senators John Kerry and Richard Blumenthal did not repeat their appearances at the Harvard game the previous night, students and nearly all of the University’s highest ranking administrators — President Richard Levin, Provost Peter Salovey, Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Chief Investment Officer David Swensen — filled the stands.
With 3500 voices cheering them on, Yale’s attackers broke out of a long slump. No forward on the team had scored at even strength in three full games until Brockett’s goal. Once the grinder — who had scored only once before in his career — found the back of the net, the rest of the offense followed.
Andrew Miller ’13 gave Yale the lead in the second minute of the second period when he jumped on the rebound of a Colin Dueck ’13 shot and poked it by Mello. The Elis followed his lead and dominated the rest of the period at every end of the ice — Dartmouth would manage only three shots in the stanza.
“Yale has offensive flair, and the way to keep their attack in check is to make them play defense,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “But we let them get good chances.”
No one demonstrated that flair more than Little. The right winger scored with style on the power play in the middle of the period to snap a goal-free slump of six games. After his wrist shot from the slot clanged off the bottom of the crossbar and in, Little made his thrill immediately visible with a celebration emphatic even by his usual excitable standards.
“I’d been holding it in for a few weeks, so I had to let it out,” Little said.
The Bulldogs’ relentless pressure kept the Big Green pinned in their own zone for most of the period, but the visitors managed to make one of their few forays into Yale’s end count. Dartmouth’s Connor Goggin scored a soft goal with a long shot immediately after Dartmouth won a face off. The puck took Ryan Rondeau ’11 by surprise and cut the Yale momentum with just a minute to go in the frame.
The Big Green built on their lucky break in the third frame, but Yale held strong. Kevin Limbert ’11 made the score 4–2 with a minute and a half to play, Little watched his attempt at his second goal of the game bounce off the post of Dartmouth’s empty net with seconds to play, and the Elis held on for their nineteenth victory of the season.
They did so in part by playing one of their cleanest games of the season. The Elis allowed Dartmouth just two power plays, though Jaskowiak took a penalty with greater ramifications. He and Dartmouth’s Doug Jones exchanged blows after the Bulldog took a cheap hit to the head in front of the Yale bench. Both were given game disqualifications for facemask infractions. Those penalties come with automatic one-game suspensions.
The two consecutive wins should restore confidence to a Yale squad that will try to snap its three-game road losing streak when it plays twice in upstate New York. The sweep should also solidify Yale’s spot at second in the nation, as No. 2/3 Denver lost to No. 20 Colorado College Saturday.
“We haven’t been swept in a couple of years here, and we were getting into some bad habits,” Kevin Peel ’12 said. “Last night [against Harvard] was kind of a different game. We didn’t play very well, but it was a big win and tonight we knew we were back in the win column and that gave us some confidence.”