NEW HAVEN, Conn. — On one of the more bizarre nights of the ECAC season, Yale eked out a 1-0 overtime victory over Cornell to earn a weekend split while sending the Big Red home losers for the second straight night.
Nick Deschenes tipped in Joe Dart’s initial shot from the left point at the 2:14 mark of overtime to end Yale’s four-game losing skid. Dan Lombard made 24 saves for the Bulldogs (11-12, 7-9 ECAC) to record Yale’s first shutout of the season.
The victory also puts Yale head coach Tim Taylor at the top of the all-time wins list at the school, passing Murray Murdoch with his 279th win.
Matt Underhill stopped 29 shots for the Big Red (11-8-4, 9-5-2 ECAC) in a game marked by its defensive intensity.
“We certainly knew that we had to fight, scratch and claw for every inch in their zone,” Lombard said.
Up until the game-winning goal, more had happened off the ice than on it.
The game was originally scheduled to be played on Yale’s campus at Ingalls Rink. But compressor problems earlier in the day had left the playing surface more liquid than ice, leaving Yale administrators in a bind. About two hours before the scheduled starting time, they got clearance from officials at the New Haven Coliseum to move the game across town.
As a result, the game started an hour late. But that it started at all was something of a small miracle. The Coliseum happened to be vacant that night and its staff was willing to welcome the two teams on very short notice.
Because of the inconvenience of the last-minute move, fans were admitted free of charge. The 3,855 who made it to the game certainly got more than their money’s worth.
The game featured frequent end-to-end rushes, scoring chances, brilliant saves and crushing hits. Yet no goals were scored in regulation, and both teams played with controlled aggressiveness, each taking just one penalty in the first 60 minutes.
But all that changed when Cornell’s David Kozier drilled Luke Earl into the boards in front of the Big Red bench. Just 57 seconds into the overtime, Yale went on the power play for only the second time all night.
The Bulldogs buzzed Underhill and the Cornell net a number of times on the man-advantage. Earl had a great scoring chance from six feet out that he shot over the net, and a Deschenes pass through the crease actually hit the post before a Red defenseman cleared it aside. But Deschenes was not to be denied, redirecting Dart’s blast from the point to notch his second overtime tally of the season and 11th goal overall.
The Bulldogs were in familiar territory heading into overtime with no goals on the board. Last Saturday night, they were in the same position at St. Lawrence. That time, the Saints scored just eight seconds into the extra session — the loss weighed on the Bulldogs’ minds as overtime began with Cornell.
“When the buzzer went off [ending regulation], I thought, ‘Oh God, not again,’” Lombard said. “I said, ‘Should I get through the first eight seconds?’ I thought, ‘Yeah.’”
As the victors poured off the bench to congratulate Deschenes and Lombard, Jeff Hamilton skated to the Cornell net to retrieve the puck, then presented it to Taylor as a memento of his 279th victory.
“Quite frankly, I’m just glad it’s over,” Taylor said. “It was nothing that I was thinking about or focused on.”
In his 23rd season behind the Yale bench, Taylor has a record of 279-332-47. He moved past Murdoch, who coached at Yale for 27 seasons and at 96 years old is the oldest living former NHL player.
Taylor and the Bulldogs had gone winless since January 27, losing four straight games. Yale’s last win also came at the New Haven Coliseum, an 8-2 thrashing of Notre Dame. But unlike Saturday’s contest, the game with Notre Dame was scheduled for the larger arena.
For the Big Red, the weekend ended in bitter disappointment. Entering the weekend atop the ECAC standings, Cornell managed just one goal against a pair of teams in the bottom half of the conference. The Big Red fell into a second-place tie with Clarkson, three points behind St. Lawrence.
Cornell found itself on the wrong end of a shutout on November 10, when Union beat the Big Red 2-0 in Schenectady, N.Y.
Before the third period began, the Bulldogs had actually fallen into 11th place after a Colgate win. But with the hard-fought two points, Yale jumped back into a tie for eighth with Princeton. The Elis also posted their first shutout in over a year, since a 2-0 whitewash of Colgate on December 3, 1999.
In addition to the problems caused by the Ingalls Rink compressor, the game was delayed further late in the first period. With 3:16 left, play stopped because of a crack in the Plexiglas in one of the corners. The officials sent the players to the dressing room for intermission before the teams came back out on the ice to finish off the first period. They then took a two-minute break and began the second period.
While most of the events of the evening tended toward the bizarre, a Cornell game going into overtime was anything but strange. The Big Red has now needed extra time eight times, going 3-1-4 in those games. Yale is 2-2 in the extra session, with Deschenes netting both game-winners.
Yale has now won five of the last six meetings with the Big Red in New Haven. The victory earned the Bulldogs a split of the season series and edged them within one point of first in the less glamorous Ivy League standings. Cornell is on top with a 5-3-1 record after two losses this weekend while the Elis are 5-2.
After four straight road games, the Big Red returns home next weekend to host Dartmouth on Friday and Vermont on Saturday. Yale takes to the road to visit Union on Friday and Rensselaer on Saturday.