NEW HAVEN, Conn. — History was on Clarkson’s side as the Golden Knights headed to overtime against Yale on Saturday night in New Haven.
After all, the Bulldogs were winless against their ECAC rival since 1997 and had not won an overtime game since that season.
Heck, Yale hadn’t won a home game in an extra session in seven years.
But before a sold-out Ingalls Rink crowd of 3,486, the Bulldogs rewrote the books with a 5-4 overtime win.
Yale (3-1, 1-1 ECAC), which has built its reputation over the years as a defensive-minded team, turned into an offensive juggernaut, posting a 48-31 shots advantage over the Golden Knights (2-2-2, 0-1-1 ECAC). Nick Deschenes, who earned first-star honors, capped the explosion with a goal 2:34 into overtime. Jeff Hamilton picked up a goal and two assists for the Elis while Ben Stafford added a goal and two assists.
The Bulldogs trailed on three different occasions– including a two-goal deficit in the third — but came back for the victory.
“This was an amazing win for us,” Deschenes said. “Every time we fell behind, we kept going and going. It showed a lot of character for us to win it in overtime.”
The victory was especially sweet for Yale head coach Tim Taylor after his team had lost an overtime heartbreaker on Friday night to St. Lawrence, 4-3.
“This whole weekend was quite a test for us,” he said. “After the devastating loss last night, I was interested to see how we would respond. We came up with our best game of the season.”
Hoping to kick-start his team’s effort, Taylor instituted a two-man forecheck, which paid dividends throughout the game.
“I wanted to make sure that there were no doldrums after last night,” he said. “We wanted to go at them hard.”
The Elis responded with aggressive play in the offensive zone, erasing the memory of the previous night’s disappointing loss. In that game, Yale never trailed until Russ Bartlett ended the game with 13 seconds remaining in overtime. Against Clarkson, however, the tables were turned; Yale never led until Deschenes sent the Golden Knights packing.
“When something’s not going our way, we never quit,” Deschenes said. “With four lines working hard every night, we know we can get back into games. It’s hard for us to get down on ourselves.”
Throughout the evening, the Bulldogs had to dig themselves out of holes. Clarkson took the early lead when Rob McFeeters scored his second career goal in as many nights at the 4:58 mark of the first period.
Stafford answered for Yale just 33 seconds later, sliding a slow backhander towards the Clarkson net which goaltender Shawn Grant misplayed into the net. It was the first of three Yale goals that last touched a Clarkson player before crossing the goal line.
Before the first period ended, a Hamilton defensive-zone turnover gave Don Smith a clear wrist shot from 10 feet out, beating Yale goaltender Dan Lombard at the 6:37 mark. Matt Poapst added a power-play goal at 5:31 of the second to give the Golden Knights a 3-1 lead.
The Bulldogs took momentum back when Jeff Dwyer’s shot from the point was deflected by a Clarkson player in front, skipping over Grant’s shoulder. The power-play goal at 8:26 of the second period was Yale’s fourth straight game with an extra-man tally, and the defenseman’s first career goal.
Hamilton accidentally tied the score at the 14:58 mark of the second, firing a pass across the slot on a two-on-two. The puck ricocheted off retreating defenseman Dave Reid’s leg past Grant to tie the game at three.
The Golden Knights refused to quit despite Yale’s fluky goals, taking a 4-3 lead 8:32 into the third period. Chris Line took a pass up the right wing and unleashed a rocket from the top of the right circle that beat Lombard inside the far post.
But the Bulldogs continued to pepper Grant– registering at least 14 shots in each period– until Luke Earl notched the equalizer with 4:34 left in regulation. He flipped a rebound into the top of the net to even the score at four apiece.
Yale continued to carry play into the extra session, picking up a pair of shots on goal before Deschenes scored the game-winner for his third of the year. He took a back-door pass from Stafford at the bottom of the left circle, forced Grant to drop to his knees, took one stride to the low slot and knocked in the clincher.
Since Cory Shea scored to beat Cornell 2-1 in Ithaca on November 22, 1997, the Bulldogs had gone 0-2-12 in overtime. Yale’s last overtime win at Ingalls Rink was February 4, 1994, when the Elis topped Brown 6-5. In New Haven, the Bulldogs were 0-4-13 in the extra session since that win.
Both teams will remain in conference play, with the Bulldogs visiting Dartmouth next Friday and Vermont on Saturday. Yale swept that weekend series on the road last season.
Clarkson will head down the road to Appleton Arena to visit rival St. Lawrence on Saturday night. The Saints blew the Golden Knights out, 7-3, last year in Canton, N.Y.