First-time spectators at Reese Stadium could have been puzzled by what looked like a brick wall in Yale’s defense on Saturday.

Though it faltered late, the defense on the No. 18 men’s lacrosse team looked invincible for much of the game, and held Dartmouth scoreless for 39 consecutive minutes of the Elis’ 9–7 win. The close final score did not represent the domination by the Bulldogs (7–2, 2–2). A slew of penalties and defensive breakdowns in the last two minutes of the contest enabled the visiting Big Green (4–5, 1–2) to turn a 9–3 blowout into a respectable two-goal defeat.

“We spent the week of practice trying to get our defensive mantra back,” defenseman Peter Johnson ’13 said. “Aside from the slip at the end, we showed what we are capable of when we play as a solid unit.”

The win bumped the Bulldogs up to a second-place tie with No. 12 Penn for second place in the Ivy League. While No. 6 Cornell will almost undoubtedly finish the regular season atop the conference, the Ivy League’s automatic bid for the NCAA tournament will be decided by a four-team post-season tournament for the second consecutive year.

Given Yale’s two early-season losses to Penn and Cornell and a weak strength of schedule, it is unlikely that the Bulldogs will have a shot at an at-large bid for the tournament. But Saturday’s win versus Dartmouth puts Yale in a good position going into the last two conference matches against Brown and Harvard.

“Brown is a great team, so were going to have to have a great week of practice to prepare,” captain and long stick midfielder Pat Coleman ’11 said.

Greg Mahony ’12 opened the scoring for Yale two minutes into play when he rifled the ball past Dartmouth goalie Fergus Campbell. But it was Brian Douglass ’11 and Matt Gibson ’12 who put the large crowd of 1,876 on its feet early on with highlight-reel goals.

The Bulldogs and Big Green had been tied at 1–1 for most of the first quarter when Douglass dove for a lead pass in front of the Dartmouth goal and sent a shot past Campbell before he hit the ground. The acrobatic effort gave Yale a lead it would hold for the rest of the game.

That lead increased to as many as six goals as the Elis dominated the second and third quarters. Douglass and Gibson combined for three goals and three assists during the stretch, and Coleman ’11 showcased Yale’s dominance when he intercepted a Dartmouth pass in front of Falcone, sprinted the length of the field, and put his team up 5–3 with a blistering shot. The Elis headed to the locker room up 7–3, and increased that advantage to 9–3 after a dominant third quarter.

“We’ve been working hard recently to cut down on the turnovers and the offense did a great job of it in the game as well as our clearing game,” Coleman said.

That dominance came in large part thanks to the efforts of the defense, which held the Big Green off the scoreboard for the last 11 minutes of the second quarter and for the first 28:03 of the second half. Through the first three quarters, Dartmouth managed only 16 shots. Yale took 39.

“We showed our potential when we played as a core and slid to each other,” Johnson said. “Dartmouth is a solid offensive team who we were able to lock down six v. six.”

As Dartmouth’s offense sputtered, Douglass scored what proved to be the winning goal when he put the home team up 8–3 early in the third. He dodged from behind the goal, beat the Big Green defense to the goal line extended, and fired a jumping shot over Campbell.

Mahony scored his second goal of the day 1:05 into the final frame, and Yale stifled every Dartmouth attempt at a comeback until two minutes were left in the game. Then the Big Green came to life.

Adam Boardman scored with 1:57 to go, and the visitors scored three more times in the next 1:36 to narrow the Yale lead to 9–7. But time proved too short for a six-goal comeback, and the Elis hung on for the win.

“We played 58 minutes of good defense,” defenseman Michael McCormack ’13 said. “We need to complete a whole game and we didn’t do it [on Saturday].”

Yale will try to keep pace in the Ancient Eight when it hosts Brown on Saturday.