Attacker Deron Dempster ’13 scored his fifth goal of Saturday’s game with 11.9 seconds remaining in the contest off a pass from defenseman Peter Johnson ’13 to give the Bulldogs a 10–9 victory over Penn at Reese Stadium. The Elis’ (3–4, 1–2 Ivy) first win of the Ivy League season snapped a losing streak that included a heartbreaking five-overtime defeat against No. 13 Princeton last Saturday and a tough one-goal loss at No. 5 Cornell the week before.
“It’s huge for us,” Dempster said of the victory. “We’d lost four in a row, and we were looking for that win to turn our season around. Every team is good in this league, so we took the time to study the other games, and we just wanted it today.”
After attackman Tim Schwalje equalized for the Quakers (1–6, 0–3 Ivy) with under six minutes to play, the two teams traded missed shots and possessions, but neither was able to break through for the decisive goal. But with 2:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, Penn goalkeeper Brian Feeney saved Matt Gibson’s ’12 wraparound shot from the right side of the net, and the Quakers cleared the ball into their offensive end with the score knotted at nine.
Yale called timeout off of a Penn missed shot with 1:25 to go, and Penn held the ball behind the net to try for the last shot in regulation. With 30 seconds remaining, Quaker attackman Dan Savage dodged from behind the net. Two passes later Penn’s John Conneely ripped an open shot at Bulldog netminder Jack Meyer ’14 from 12 yards out. Conneely had already found the net once that day, but this time Meyer snatched the ball out of the air and hit Johnson sprinting up the field for a fast break.
Johnson flew across the midfield line ahead of the Quaker midfielders and when the Penn defense rotated to pick him up, he found Dempster waiting on the back pipe. Dempster worked his way towards the front of the cage with a Penn defenseman on his back and a referee’s flag flew up for a penalty on the Quakers, but a second later the junior slotted the ball past Feeney for the game-winning goal.
Dempster, who had been out with an injury for the past three games, was the spark plug for the Eli offense on Saturday. In the first half he scored two straight extra man goals on passes from Gibson to break a 2–2 tie for the Bulldogs. During Yale’s next man-up opportunity, the Quakers locked off Gibson, hoping that the Bulldog offense would stall without the team’s top playmaker. The tactic failed, as midfielder Shane Thornton ’15 found Dempster in the middle for his third tally of the day.
Later, in the third quarter, Gibson located Dempster near the goal again, this time with the Penn defense at full strength, and the junior put in his fourth goal to put Yale up 8–5. All of Gibson’s team-high three assists were to Dempster on Saturday, and the Bulldogs will look for this chemistry — and Dempster’s stellar play — to continue for the rest of the season.
“I’ve been hurt the last two weeks so I haven’t played with [Gibson] a lot, but we worked well together on extra man,” Dempster said after the game. “Somehow it just clicked today.”
The Bulldogs also got big performances out of midfielders Greg Mahony ’12 and Dylan Levings ’14. Mahony scored his first goal less than five minutes into the game when he worked his way open from 12 yards out and ripped a shot past Penn goalkeeper Brendan Engelke. Engelke started the game but was replaced at halftime by Feeney. Mahony’s second score, another rocket from a few yards inside the restraining box, broke an 8–8 tie with 9:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Levings, meanwhile, had his best game of the season, winning 17 of 22 faceoffs for the Elis. The sophomore took a beating from the Quaker defenders every time he had to take the ball over the midfield line and even had to sit out after a particularly vicious hit, but came right back onto the field after missing only a single faceoff. Levings also drew the penalty that led to Dempster’s third goal when he was hit in the helmet coming out of the scrum.
“He was unbelievable,” head coach Andy Shay said of his faceoff specialist. “We knew he had that kind of game in him, and he was on fire.”
Between Levings’ dominance at the X and their 28–19 ground ball advantage, the Bulldogs should have controlled possession easily. But the Elis committed 23 turnovers — 15 in the first half alone — and were successful on only 14 of their 23 clears. After attackman Brandon Mangan ’14 and Mahony put Yale up 2–0 only five minutes into the contest, it looked like the game would be a blowout. But Penn scored its first goal later in the first quarter when Meyer, who otherwise played well en route to nine saves on Saturday, turned the ball over on the clear, leading to an easy one-on-one goal for Quaker midfielder Ryan Parietti. Captain Michael Pratt ’12 said that Yale overcame these mistakes by winning ground balls and working hard on defense.
“It’s really important to hustle and get ground balls when you’re not playing well, and we did a great job of that today,” Pratt added.
His coach took a slightly more critical view of the situation.
“It was ugly,” Shay said, “but we’ll take it.”
Pratt scored to give Yale a commanding 7–3 lead going into halftime, but the Bulldogs’ mistakes allowed the Quakers to climb back into the game. Savage and Schwalje scored three straight times for Penn at the start of the final quarter to tie the game at eight. But just as the Tigers ruined the Bulldogs’ comeback last weekend, Dempster and the Elis stopped the Quakers in their tracks on Saturday.
Saturday’s matchup came after three straight games against teams ranked in the top 13 in the country. While the Elis pushed their opponents to the edge in the last two of these contests, they came away with two losses. Already 0–2 in the Ivy League heading into Saturday’s matchup, the Bulldogs recognized their season could slip away with a loss to Penn. Shay credited his players for staying dedicated to the team.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” Shay said. “They haven’t deviated from the plan at all, they just stuck with it and kept grinding, and it worked out for them today.”
The Bulldogs travel to Providence on Tuesday to take on the Friars in a 7 p.m. game.