NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The ECAC’s hottest teams of November and coldest of December met at Ingalls Rink on Saturday night to determine which team would head into winter break with any kind of momentum.
Adam Sauve’s goal with 6:19 left in the third period gave Yale a 4-3 win over Union, ending a four-game losing skid and ensuring that the Bulldogs will enjoy their forthcoming month-long hiatus. The Dutchmen, however, will have to ride a three-game losing streak for the next three weeks.
“This game takes a huge monkey off our back to some extent,” Yale coach Tim Taylor said. “I’m very proud of the effort for two reasons. No. 1, because of last night [a 5-4 loss to Rensselaer] and two, because not everything went our way tonight.”
On Friday night, Yale (6-6, 4-6 ECAC) took a 3-1 lead into the third against Rensselaer before allowing four goals and falling 5-4. But against Union (6-4-2, 3-2-1), the Bulldogs used the third period to their advantage. They outshot the Dutchmen 17-9 in the final stanza, and goals from Nick Deschenes and Sauve brought them back from a 3-2 deficit.
Sauve’s goal at the 13:41 mark of the third broke a 3-3 tie and improved Yale’s unbeaten streak against Union to seven games (6-0-1). To set up the game-winner, Spencer Rodgers won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Joe Dart at the left point to trigger a set play. Dart immediately fired the puck toward the net, and Sauve got enough of it to knock it past Union goaltender Brandon Snee.
“We’ve let teams back into the game in the third period three times this year,” Deschenes said. “For some reason, the effort hasn’t carried over into the third period, but it did tonight.”
Deschenes picked up a pair of goals while Jeff Hamilton notched three assists, but it was Sauve’s goal that brought the down the sold-out house of 3,486. Dan Lombard (27 saves) made the lead stand up in the last six minutes to help Yale to its sixth win, each of which has come by one goal.
Jeff Wilson had a goal and an assist for the Dutchmen while Snee was outstanding on the other end, turning away 35 shots. But he and his teammates could not contain Yale’s top line of Hamilton, Deschenes and Ben Stafford, which racked up three goals and five assists on the night.
“I thought all of our lines gave a great effort, and the Hamilton line was special tonight,” Taylor said. “They made Snee be at his best all night.”
For a hard-hitting game, each team managed to keep its penalties down with Yale picking up just two minors and Union only four. Most importantly, the Bulldogs kept its struggling penalty kill unit off the ice, giving the Dutchmen only one power-play chance.
During Yale’s four-game losing streak, the Bulldogs had allowed eight goals with a man in the penalty box — including three in the third period against RPI.
“We played a very disciplined game tonight,” Taylor said. “We went over the penalties from last night’s game on tape. … There wasn’t one penalty that made any sense.”
The Bulldogs showed that they had put the heartrending loss to RPI behind them when Stafford one-timed a Hamilton pass from the corner just 24 seconds into the game.
“It’s the first time that we’ve scored on the first shift,” Stafford said. “Those goals always help, and it’s hard on the other team.”
The Dutchmen showed no ill effects from the early deficit, though, and got the game’s first big break less than two minutes later. P.J. Byrne gained the red line and fired the puck along the right boards in the Yale zone, and as it turned the corner to head behind the net, Lombard skated back to stop it. But the puck took a strange bounce off the end boards and slid right through the crease, where Wilson popped it in to tie the game at the 2:18 mark.
Union took the lead its first lead at the 17-minute mark thanks to the efforts of Jeff Hutchins. About to get drilled in front of the Union bench, he managed to send a pretty lead pass up the left wing for Wilson to set up a two-on-one. Wilson drew the Yale defender at the left circle, then found a wide-open Seamus Galligan skating through the slot. With Lombard out of position, Galligan tapped the puck in to give the Dutchmen a 2-1 advantage.
Deschenes got his first equalizer at the 4:26 mark of the second off a pretty feed from Hamilton. After gathering a rebound along the right boards, Stafford found Hamilton behind the net before Yale’s scoring leader fed Deschenes in front of the net. He pounded the puck past Snee to even the score.
It was the only goal of the second period, though each team had a number of good scoring chances. The best opportunity to go awry came on Union’s only power-play chance, when Kris Goodjohn beat Lombard on the stick side but hit the crossbar midway through the period.
The Bulldogs wanted to erase the memory of their dismal third period from the night before, but the Dutchmen took the lead 6:34 into the third on Saturday. Standing about 6 feet in front of the Yale net, Alex Todd one-timed a Bryan Yackel pass over Lombard’s right shoulder to put Union up 3-2.
On some nights, falling behind in the third would have taken the fight out of the Bulldogs, but not on Saturday.
“We’ve been in that position before, and we knew we were playing good hockey,” Stafford said. “Our line in particular was playing well, and I just wanted to get back on the ice.”
Indeed, Yale’s top line had an answer just 1:33 later. Taking a pass from Hamilton in the left corner, Deschenes fought off a check to fire a low shot past Snee to even the score at 3-3 with 11:53 left.
Sauve picked up his goal with 6:19 left to notch his second of the season and the first game-winner of his career. The Dutchmen pulled Snee for the final 1:32 of action but managed just one shot on goal.
Both teams have spent time in the USCHO.com poll after fast starts. The Dutchmen — who were No. 12 in the nation this week — opened the season 6-1-2 and won all five of their games in November. They are 0-3-1 since, including a 3-2 home loss to Quinnipiac.
The Bulldogs started 5-2 and reached as high as No. 12 in the USCHO.com rankings before their recent cold streak knocked them out of the poll.
Yale has the next month off before visiting No. 1 Michigan State for a pair of games on Jan. 5 and 6. After a three-week break, the Dutchmen will return to action on Dec. 29 to face Minnesota in the first round of the Mariucci Classic.