NEW HAVEN, Conn. — It wasn’t the way Yale head coach Tim Taylor drew it up, but his team picked up two critical conference points in a wild 7-6 win over Vermont at Ingalls Rink.
Nick Deschenes had his first career hat trick, and Luke Earl added five points to spur the Yale (13-13, 9-10 ECAC) victory, while Jeff Hamilton pair of points put him atop the school’s all-time scoring list. The Bulldogs moved into a tie for sixth place in the conference standings while the Catamounts (11-14-2, 7-10-2) dropped into a tie for ninth with Union.
Before a sold-out crowd of 3,486, Dan Lombard made 24 saves for Yale to record the victory. Vermont’s Andrew Allen stopped 12 shots before head coach Mike Gilligan replaced him in the second period with Shawn Conschafter, who made 14 saves.
“That [game] left me speechless,” Taylor said. “The game plan was to put defense first, to play a tight, close-checking game and shut them down. We won the game without following the game plan completely.”
Hamilton, who has four goals and two assists in his last two games, moved past Mark Kaufmann as Yale’s all-time leading scorer with 161 points. He tied the record with an assist in the first period and took sole possession of first with a goal in the second period, earning the senior a standing ovation.
“It’s a big relief [to break the record],” he said. “I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t thinking about it.”
Said Taylor, “I’m happy for Jeff. He’s clearly one of the finest offensive talents that’s ever played at Yale. It’s well deserved, and he’s a spectacular offensive player.”
After a 5-1 loss to Union last Friday night, Taylor juggled his lines, moving Deschenes off the top line while putting Earl alongside leading scorers Hamilton and Stafford. The move has paid off — Yale has scored 13 goals in two wins, and Deschenes and Earl have combined for 12 points.
Earl got the Bulldogs on the board first with his eighth goal of the season just 1:17 into the game. He took a Stafford pass and beat Allen with a backhander that found its way between the goaltender’s pads.
The Catamounts answered at the 4:47 mark when Ryan Cox banged in his eighth goal of the year. After Lombard made stops on Jeff Miles and Patrick Sharp, Cox knocked the second rebound over the sprawling netminder to even the score at 1-1.
Just 23 seconds later, though, Earl tipped a Hamilton blast from the left circle that found the top of the goal. The tally was Earl’s ninth of the year and tied Hamilton for the Yale scoring lead.
With 2:55 left in the opening period, Vermont’s Mike Torney evened the score at 2-2 with his second goal of the season. John Longo carried the puck from his own end, gained the Yale zone, drew two defenders at the right circle and left a pretty drop pass to Torney. The Vermont winger rifled a wrist shot over Lombard’s left shoulder for the score.
After the first 20 minutes, the fans had already seen four goals, an unusually high total for a game at Ingalls Rink. But they hadn’t seen anything yet.
During the second period, the two teams treated the fans to seven goals, 27 shots on net and some brilliant saves by beleaguered goaltenders.
Longo gave the Catamounts their first lead of the game just 29 seconds in. His shot from 20 feet out hit traffic in front of the Yale net and found its way past Lombard. But Vermont’s momentum was short-lived.
Hamilton notched his 15th of the season just 23 seconds later. After some hard work behind the Vermont net by Stafford, the loose puck ended up on Hamilton’s stick, and he flipped a backhander from between the hash marks through traffic and over Allen’s right shoulder. The goal tied the game at 3-3 and brought the crowd to its feet to salute Yale’s new scoring king.
The Bulldogs kept the pressure up, taking the lead back 4-3 at the 4:24 mark. Earl moved into right circle, waited a moment, faked a shot, then found Deschenes on the left side. He skated in on Allen, forced the goaltender to slide, then beat him with an easy backhander from point-blank range to pick up his 13th goal.
Longo nearly tied the score just over a minute later while the Catamounts were on the penalty kill. Hamilton and Joe Dart misconnected on a long pass in the Yale zone, allowing Longo to steal the puck and move in on Lombard. But the Yale goaltender made a spectacular sprawling save to keep the lead at 4-3.
Allen’s night ended shortly thereafter, giving up a soft goal to John Gauger at 8:55. After a big hit in the Vermont zone by Yale’s Lee Jelenic forced a turnover, Gauger flipped a relatively soft wrister towards the Vermont net. Allen appeared to have a clear view of the puck the whole way, but he misplayed it off his glove and into the net for the Yale defenseman’s first goal of the season.
For the second straight game, Gilligan made a goaltender switch, pulling Allen in favor of Conschafter. In last Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Cornell, he replaced Conschafter with Allen for the third period.
Two minutes later, Lombard again came up with a critical save, denying Jerry Gernander on a breakaway with a sliding stop. But at the 13:01 mark, Jerry’s twin brother Jim Gernander was not to be denied. Just after a Vermont power play expired, he fired a shot from the right point that was deflected past Lombard for his second goal of the season.
Deschenes answered at 17:03 to give Yale another two-goal lead. On the power play, Stafford retrieved the puck in his own zone and moved up ice. As he led Earl through the neutral zone, Stafford was speared in the stomach, crumpling to the ice. While he was down, Earl moved into the Vermont zone and used a pretty touch pass to feed Deschenes at the bottom of the right circle. He then slid the puck past Conschafter’s left leg for a 6-4 lead. Stafford, who earned an assist on the play, stayed in the game.
In a game filled with momentum swings, the Catamounts wrested it back just 44 seconds later. After four players battled for the puck behind the Yale net, it came squirting out in front where Billy Kelly gathered it between the hash marks. He roofed it over Lombard’s glove hand to pull Vermont within one at 6-5.
Just over a minute later, Earl made a bid for a hat trick, but Conschafter robbed him, sending the teams to the dressing room after an eventful second period.
The Catamounts seemed to feed off their momentum from the second period as Jeff Miles brought them all the way back to a 6-6 tie at the 1:16 mark of the third. He took a long cross-ice pass from Bryson Busniuk, faked a shot, then fired the puck through Lombard’s legs.
But once again, the Elis answered. At 4:38, Deschenes pounded in a rebound to give Yale the lead back at 7-6, notching his first career hat trick in the process.
The Catamounts threatened for the rest of regulation but could not get the equalizer. Conschafter went to the bench for an extra skater with 1:15 left, but the Bulldogs ended up getting the scoring chances. While Vermont managed only one shot on Lombard with its net empty, Hamilton and Deschenes each had easy chances to put the game away. But both of them hit the post, keeping the Catamounts in the game until the final buzzer.
The Catamounts travel to eighth-place Princeton on Saturday night while the Bulldogs host Dartmouth, which is fifth.