NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A night after the Ingalls Rink crowd sat on its hands throughout most of Yale’s 6-1 thrashing of Brown, the Bulldogs made sure to keep the home crowd on its feet for the game’s final three minutes in a 3-1 win over arch-rival Harvard on Saturday.
Before 3,486 fans, the Crimson threatened late in the game but could not solve Yale goaltender Dan Lombard in the closing moments. The junior netminder made 27 saves including a number of crucial stops in the third period.
“What I like about the way Dan is playing is that he’s killing so many plays,” Yale coach Tim Taylor said. “The puck was sticking to him like Velcro.”
For the Bulldogs (8-8, 6-6 ECAC), it was their third straight ECAC win and first weekend sweep in over a year. First-place Harvard (9-8-1, 8-4-1) had its three-game winning streak snapped and now sees Yale directly below in the conference standings.
“It’s nice to be on a little bit of a roll,” Taylor said. “Winning three consecutive games in this conference is nothing to scoff at.”
Ben Stafford, Luke Earl and Joe Dart — each of whom scored in the win over Brown — all tallied for Yale, while Kenny Turano netted Harvard’s only goal. Oliver Jonas made 26 stops in net for the Crimson.
“We couldn’t say it, but this was pretty much a do-or-die weekend for us,” Lombard said. “And we got it done.”
Lombard, who has played well despite Yale’s penalty-killing woes, saw his defense lock up the Crimson offense. In addition, after giving up five power-play goals last weekend to Michigan State, the Bulldogs did not allow a single one all weekend.
“My life was so easy this weekend,” Lombard said. “Our theme is, if we have the puck, they can’t score. But this weekend, we said that if they did get the puck, we would come back and build the defensive house. That’s what the guys did in front of me, so all I had to do was see the puck and make saves.”
On Friday night, the Bulldogs routed Brown thanks to a four-goal, 21-shot outburst in the third period, and they continued their offensive surge in the first period against Harvard. The Crimson, on the other hand, had an emotional 4-3 comeback win over Princeton the previous night, and looked a step slower than Yale in the first period. In fact, Harvard did not manage a shot until 6:25 remained in the opening stanza.
But as good as Yale’s skating legs were in the first period, they had nothing to do with the night’s first goal.
After Stafford corralled the loose puck outside the Harvard zone, he fired it around the boards. Anticipating the puck’s arrival behind the his net, goaltender Oliver Jonas began to skate to the end boards when the puck hit a partition on the side boards, redirecting its route straight into the vacant Crimson goal at the 15:33 mark.
“We knew that there’s something there on those boards,” Stafford said. “Jeff Hamilton is always trying to bank the puck off there for a pass right in front of the net. I wasn’t thinking about it when I dumped in, and it took me completely by surprise when I saw the red light come on.”
Despite Yale’s 15-6 shots advantage in the first period, the Bulldogs managed only one goal as Jonas kept rebounds away from Yale sticks.
A rejuvenated Harvard team came out quickly in the second period, keyed by the offensive zone work of Dominic Moore and Steve Bala. Three minutes into the period, Moore made a spectacular set of moves at the left circle, finding himself right in front of the Yale net. But his shot from the doorstep nestled into the glove of Lombard.
Just over three minutes later, Luke Earl and Evan Wax worked a beautiful give-and-go in the Harvard zone. Earl was the beneficiary, firing a wrist shot from the top of the slot that beat Jonas over his right shoulder at the 6:10 mark.
Harvard defenseman Dave McCullouch helped keep the Yale pressure on, drilling Denis Nam from behind in front of the visiting penalty box. On its fifth power play of the night, the Bulldogs finally cashed in as Joe Dart’s wrist shot beat Jonas to put Yale ahead 3-0 at the 9:18 mark.
Less than a minute later, Earl nearly notched his second of the night, but Jonas robbed him, keeping the score 3-0. The Crimson capitalized on the big save moments later, when Brett Nowak fired the puck from the right corner into the slot. The puck rolled around amid a mass of bodies, finding its way onto Kenny Turano’s stick. He poked it past Lombard at the 10:24 mark, cutting the Yale lead to two goals.
Throughout the third period, the Crimson pressured Lombard but could not beat him. Harvard outshot the Bulldogs 11-6, peppering the Yale net with the extra skater in the final minute to no avail.
Yale is 5-1-1 against its northern rival in the last seven meetings at Ingalls Rink. The Bulldogs also notched their first two-game sweep since they defeated Cornell and Colgate in succession in December 1999.
Harvard breaks for exams and does not return to the ice until Jan. 27 for an exhibition with New Brunswick. The Bulldogs host Holy Cross next Saturday night at Ingalls Rink.