NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Sometimes, Yale’s Jeff Hamilton is simply the best player on the ice, and there’s not much opposing teams can do about it.
The two-time All-American and former ECAC scoring champ put on a spectacular offensive show in Yale’s 6-1 pounding of Holy Cross Saturday night at Ingalls Rink. He notched his third career hat trick and added an assist as the Bulldogs (9-8, 6-6 ECAC) blitzed the visiting Crusaders (5-15-1, 5-9 MAAC) before 2,949 fans.
“Most of his goals have been coming from in close, so it was nice to see him get some rocket shots off,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “It was vintage Hamilton tonight. He hasn’t been having the multi-point games so much lately, so it was good to loosen him up a bit in the offensive zone.”
Hamilton and linemates Ben Stafford (one goal, two assists) and Nick Deschenes (two assists) were dominant on the night, combining for nine points. Holy Cross goaltender Rick Massey made 33 saves, while Brandon Doria scored his team’s only goal. Three Yale goaltenders combined to make 21 stops.
Holy Cross has now lost four straight while the Bulldogs have won three in a row, outscoring their opponents 15-3 in the process.
Yale started quickly — scoring two goals in the game’s first five minutes — and ended with three exclamatory goals in the third period. For the middle 20 minutes, though, the Crusaders hung around and stymied the Eli offense. But Hamilton and the Bulldogs exploded in the third period, sending the upstart Crusaders home on the wrong end of a blowout.
“We’ve been in their situation enough times to know what it’s like to be the underdog,” Hamilton said. “We knew we couldn’t have a letdown against them.”
The Bulldogs showed no signs of an early letdown, dominating the game from the start. After the Hamilton line threatened on their first shift, Yale took a 1-0 lead on the very next shift.
Gabe Polsky found Peter Toomey behind the Holy Cross net, and Toomey started to skate with the puck towards the front of the goal. He drew Massey and a Crusader defender to the left post before passing across the bottom of the slot to the wide-open Ryan Steeves. The freshman slammed a one-timer home for his first career goal at the two-minute mark.
Yale kept the pressure up as Hamilton scored his first goal of the night at the 5:05 mark of the second. Evan Wax slid a soft pass across the top of the crease to find Hamilton, who buried his ninth goal of the year. The Bulldogs led 2-0 while the Crusaders had only one shot on Yale starting goaltender Dan Lombard.
For the rest of the opening stanza, the Bulldogs continued to threaten, outshooting Holy Cross 19-6, but they could not beat Massey. Yale’s frustration continued to mount in the second period, when a full-fledged letdown coincided with the emergence of an energized set of Crusaders.
“We had a little lapse in the second period as we were sloppy both mentally and physically,” Taylor said. “We had a little trouble getting through the neutral zone. They really clogged us up.”
The Crusaders took advantage of their second power play chance midway through the second period. Yale defenseman Jeff Dwyer tried to move the puck out of his own zone but fired it right into the body of Doria. The puck caromed behind Dwyer, deeper into the Yale end while Doria moved around the defender to the loose puck. Doria then skated in alone on the stunned Lombard and flipped the puck over the goaltender’s right shoulder at the 8:49 mark, cutting the lead in half.
Hard work, opportunism and careless Yale passing had brought the Crusaders back, but the Bulldogs answered, pushing the lead to 3-1 before the end of the second. Massey stopped a quick Luke Earl shot from the right circle, but the puck popped into the air to Evan Wax, who managed to put it past the sprawling goaltender at the 13:27 mark.
Ahead 3-1 heading into the third period, the Bulldogs unloaded all of their ammo in the last 20 minutes.
“Coach Taylor was mad, because in the first two periods, we had been throwing the puck out towards the point a few too many times which ended up breaking them out,” Hamilton said. “In the third, I just wanted to shoot the puck and get some chances in the slot.”
Hamilton heeded his coach’s advice midway through the third with the teams skating four-on-four. After Dwyer fired a pass off the right-wing boards to Stafford in the neutral zone, Stafford skated into the Holy Cross end and found Hamilton skating between the circles. Hamilton unleashed a rising wrist shot that beat Massey to notch his first multi-goal outing of the season.
The goal gave Yale a 4-1 lead at the 7:52 mark of the third and allowed Taylor to take out Lombard three minutes later. The Yale goaltender had played every minute of every game this season and skated off to a standing ovation. He finished with 17 saves before Chris O’Connell took over.
Yale dealt Holy Cross the knockout blow with two spectacular goals just 34 seconds apart. Hamilton dropped a no-look, behind-the-back pass from the bottom of the right circle to the slot where Stafford slapped a one-timer past Massey at the 11:47 mark.
Holy Cross head coach Paul Pearl called a timeout to calm his team down, but Yale’s top line was not finished. Just seconds after the timeout, Deschenes corralled the loose puck 10 feet in front of the Crusader goal, then from his knees fed Hamilton towards the bottom of the left circle. The Yale sniper then unleashed a rocket that beat Massey and popped the water bottle atop the net into the air, ending its ascent into the upper right corner of the goal. The Bulldogs led 6-1 at the 12:21 mark and cruised the rest of the way.
In his collegiate debut, O’Connell made four stops before Peter Dobrowolski relieved him with 2:10 left in the game. Also making his Yale debut, the freshman did not face a shot.
Hamilton’s performance was his first hat trick since achieving the feat on November 21, 1998 in a 7-1 win over Harvard. He now has 147 career points, trailing Mark Kaufmann by 13 for the all-time Yale scoring record. Hamilton also increased his own school mark with his 16th game-winning goal.
Taylor is also close to a milestone, having earned his 277th win behind the Yale bench. With the next Eli victory, Taylor will tie Murray Murdoch for the school record.
This was only the second meeting between Yale and Holy Cross. The Bulldogs won the only other contest 9-7 back on February 19, 1947.
The Bulldogs will remain in non-conference play, hosting Notre Dame twice next weekend. The teams will battle on Saturday afternoon at the New Haven Coliseum and in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee at Ingalls Rink. The Crusaders return to MAAC play, hosting Fairfield on Friday and Mercyhurst on Saturday.