NEW HAVEN, Conn. — When Yale forward Lee Jelenic skated to the penalty box to serve a five-minute major, it was as if a pack of sharks had suddenly smelled blood. The members of the Colgate power play began circling its prey — the Yale net — with the score tied at 1 late in the second period. Then they attacked. And attacked again. And again.
By the time the teams skated off the ice for second intermission, Colgate had scored three power-play goals, taking a commanding 4-1 lead. Yale got only one back in the third period, and the Red Raiders picked up two crucial points in a 4-2 win before a sellout crowd at Ingalls Rink.
The Red Raiders (7-16-4, 5-9-1 ECAC) edged to within one point of the last ECAC playoff spot, nipping at the heels of 10th-place Yale (10-12, 6-9 ECAC).
Freshman goaltender David Cann played brilliantly in the third period, thwarting a series of point-blank shots. He finished with 30 saves, including 12 in the final stanza.
“He has really started to get into a groove,” Colgate head coach Don Vaughan said. “He has started the last four games and is getting his confidence going. I’m proud of him, and he has really picked it up for us.”
After beating Brown last Saturday night, Colgate has now won back-to-back games for the first time all season. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have lost four straight, including three conference contests.
Cann kept his team in position to win, but the three power-play goals at the end of the second period put Colgate in that position. With the score tied at 1 with 3:06 left, Jelenic hit Bob Vandersluis head-first into the boards. Jelenic went off for five minutes, and the floodgates suddenly opened.
“That was the difference in the game,” Vaughan said. “It was a great game with two evenly matched teams. Without the major, it probably would have been a tie game.”
But with the major, the Red Raiders broke the game open in a span of 1:26 on goals from Cory Murphy, Mike O’Malley and Bryan Long.
“We’ve played from behind so much this year that once we got the lead, our guys started to feel better about all of their hard work,” Vaughan said.
Colgate entered the game one point behind Union in the ECAC standings and three behind Princeton and Yale. With Princeton and Union both winning, the Red Raiders now trail the Bulldogs by only one point and have the Tigers in their sights on Saturday.
“Coming into this weekend, we said these were two games we had to have,” Vaughan said. “We’re trying to take care of our own business.”
The Red Raiders achieved the first half of their weekend goal, coming back from a first-period deficit.
After both teams traded scoring chances, the Bulldogs got on the board first on the power play. Luke Earl slid a low shot from the bottom of the slot which Cann knocked to his left. The puck caromed right to the stick of Jason Noe, who buried his fifth goal of the season at the 17:14 mark.
The goal broke Yale’s longest scoring drought of the season of 145 minutes, 56 seconds, but its momentum did not last. Just 1:15 later, Sean Nolan struck back to even the score. After Pat Varecka’s shot bounded off the mask of Yale goaltender Dan Lombard (26 saves), Nolan poked in the loose puck for his 19th goal of the season.
The teams played evenly throughout most of the second period with each team killing off a pair of power plays. Then, the roof caved in on the Elis.
Just over a minute into the major penalty, Etienne Morin found Murphy wide open between the hash marks. Murphy easily fired a wrister past Lombard to give the Red Raiders a 2-1 lead at the 17:59 mark.
Seventeen seconds later, Mike O’Malley fired a long shot from the left point through traffic, nestling the puck into the lower right corner of the goal. Lombard never saw that shot, but did get a piece of Bryan Long’s shot from the right point just over a minute later. The puck caromed off Lombard’s blocker into the back of the net, and Colgate led 4-1 with 35 seconds left in the second period.
“It’s hard for us to spot anybody three goals and come back in the third period,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “Our goal was to win the third period.”
Jeff Hamilton got the Elis within two goals at the 3:22 mark of the final stanza. Joe Dart used some fancy stick work to make his way from the right point to the slot, drawing Cann out of the crease. With the goaltender’s position compromised, Dart slid a pass down low to Hamilton, who easily put in his 14th of the season.
The rest of the way, the Bulldogs repeatedly threatened but could not solve Cann.
“We fought right to the end,” Taylor said. “We had some golden opportunities to get within one and had enough chances to realistically tie it.”
In desperation, Taylor pulled Lombard off for an extra skater in the last two minutes to no avail; it was Cann’s night.
Each team will be in the unfamiliar position of rooting for its travel partner on Saturday night. In the ongoing battle for playoff positioning and postseason berths, the Red Raiders travel to Baker Rink to take on Princeton while the Bulldogs host Cornell.