CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It was a night when more people cared about what happened in the Electoral College than in college hockey.
Fans of Yale University hockey, though, may tell you that the night’s biggest upset took place at Boston College’s Conte Forum, not in any presidential election.
Behind a two-point effort from Yale senior Jeff Hamilton and a stellar 38-save performance by goaltender Dan Lombard, Yale upset No. 2 Boston College, 4-3, to send a crowd of 4,428 home unhappy.
“This has been a dream start for us,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor, whose Bulldogs knocked off then-No. 3 New Hampshire on the road last Friday night to open the season.
Yale, which comes from a hard-checking hockey style forced by playing in the ECAC, has enjoyed its early-season ride through talent-filled Hockey East.
“We might change leagues,” joked Taylor. “Most of our games are against teams that play our style — a hard-hitting, grinding style — whereas teams like UNH and BC play more a finesse style.”
Hamilton, who missed last season with a medical redshirt, agreed with his coach.
“I think the last two games have felt easier than ECAC games,” Hamilton said. “They’re just not as chippy.”
But when faced with a finesse-over-physicality style, the Yale offense has responded.
“Tonight we scored pretty goals, and we got pretty goals versus UNH,” said Taylor. “We’re not a big team, but we’re fast and play pretty smart, and that has paid off.”
That along with some spectacular goaltending by Lombard, who turned in his second top-notch performance in less than a week.
“He’s a tenacious goaltender,” added Taylor, who called his timeout midway through the third period because he noticed Lombard cramping up.
“The puck was in our end too much, and I think from all the crouching he did, he began to cramp up. But he responded and made some big stops in the end.”
The loss for the Eagles was only the second of the season, and head coach Jerry York could find little to be discouraged about.
“Yale’s got a good team and I thought they played really well,” said York. “They were quick and opportunistic.
“We got stronger as the game went on but we couldn’t get the fourth goal.”
That fourth goal would have completed a miraculous comeback for the Eagles, who trailed 4-1 with less than nine minutes to play.
For BC it was the third game in five nights, and for the second straight game, the Eagles were without the services of three key players — forward Ben Eaves and defensemen J.D. Forrest and Brooks Orpik.
“We’re banged up a little bit,” noted York. “I think we’re a little different offense without those three guys.”
The game opened with the Eagles controlling the offense for the early part of the opening period, but it was the Bulldogs that got on the board first.
During a rush into the offense zone for Yale, Eagle defensmen Bobby Allen and Jeff Schumann lost track of Yale winger Nick Deschenes. Deschenes, alone near the left post, took a perfect pass from Hamilton and buried it past sophomore goaltender Tim Kelleher (23 saves), making his second start of the year, to give Yale a 1-0 lead at 8:59.
Later in the period, Deschenes returned the favor on the power play. This time it was Hamilton alone in back of the BC defense, and Deschenes, on nearly an identical play, rifled a pass to Hamilton to one-time into the empty net and silence the small Kelley Rink crowd.
“Our line was clicking well tonight,” said Hamilton. “I was really surprised to have as much open ice as I did, especially on my goal. But we thought that we could’ve had four or five goals [as a line] tonight.”
In the second period, Mike Lephart, who has been on an early-season tear, scoring 10 points in eight games, took offensive matters into his own hands. With the Eagles on the power play, Lephart unleashed a bomb from the middle of the blue line that beat Lombard clean and landed just under the crossbar to close the gap to one at 5:30.
The Eagles continued to pressure the Yale net, and had countless opportunities to even the score. The best of those was Krys Kolonos’ breakaway bid at 12:10. Kolonos was stopped not once, but twice by Lombard, preserving the lead.
The Bulldogs extended that lead back to two goals late in the frame. Again, a defensive lapse by the Eagles resulted in an open attacker next to the net, and fourth-line center Gabe Polsky’s pass towards the net was tipped home by that lone Bulldog, Jason Noe, above an outstretched Kelleher to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead heading into the third.
It was the first time all season that BC trailed entering the third period, forcing the offense to take some early chances. But it was carelessness, not risk-taking, that hurt the Eagles.
At 5:03, an innocent dump-in by the Bulldogs turned costly for BC when Kelleher got grossed up with his defense and put the puck on the stick of Yale center Luke Earl. The Eagles still looked safe as Earl sat behind the cage, but then the crafty junior banked the puck off of Kelleher and into the net to give the Bulldogs a 4-1 lead.
The Eagles would not go quietly. At 11:47, a missed clearing attempt by Yale resulted in an Eagle goal, as Bill Cass found Jeff Giuliano alone in front of Lombard. Giuliano’s shot from in close deflected of the goaltender’ s glove and into the net.
The comeback continued for the Eagles when Kolonos’ shot on a rush down the right wing trickled through the pads of Lombard, getting the Eagles within a goal and bringing the Conte crowd alive with 6:14 to play.
The closing minutes saw continuous Eagle pressure on the Yale net, but Lombard stood tall. The Bulldogs even survived a six-on-four attack in the closing minute to hang on for victory.
Riding the two upset wins, Yale will head into league action this weekend by hosting ECAC powerhouses St. Lawrence and Clarkson. Boston College (7-2-0) travels with its football team to Notre Dame for a Friday-Saturday hockey-football doubleheader.