NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Freshmen are not supposed to make this big of an impact this soon.
But don’t try telling that to Yale’s Chris Higgins.
Higgins notched two goals for the second time in as many games to lead the Bulldogs to a 7-3 victory over the U.S. National Under-18 team in their final exhibition contest before a crowd of 2,320 at Ingalls Rink.
Higgins — who once again centered Yale’s top line — did not go it alone, however, as five other Elis recorded goals. All told, Yale had scores from three of its four offensive lines in addition to defensemen Jeff Dwyer and Stacey Bauman.
“We showed once again that we are a pretty balanced team,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “We had good puck movement from all lines, and I thought all eight defenders played well. We got exactly what we wanted out of this game.”
Despite outshooting the U.S. National squad 12-6 in the opening period, the Bulldogs found themselves in a scoreless tie at first intermission.
“[Entering intermission tied] was a sigh of relief for us,” U.S. National head coach Mike Eaves said. “We knew we could have played better, but that we were still scoreless gave us confidence.”
But the Elis wasted no time in finding the scoreboard, with defenseman Stacey Bauman firing a one-timer from just inside the blueline that sailed past goalie Tom Roth’s right shoulder just 2:43 into the second period. Team USA came right back, as 2:28 later Mark Schwamberger wristed one past Bulldog goaltender Dan Lombard at 5:11.
Higgins brought the home crowd to its feet less than two minutes later, taking a feed from fellow freshman Joe Callahan to record power-play goal. Three minutes later, Deschenes increased Yale’s lead to 3-1 when he managed to get off a backhand shot while tangled with a defender.
But Team USA came right back, with Brett Sterling sending one past Lombard at the 12:40 mark in the second period.
Though neither team found the net again in the second, the fans saw their share of excitement when Yale’s Spencer Rodgers and USA’s David Booth engaged in a fistfight late in the second, which earned each player a roughing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct.
Team USA tied the score 1:53 into the third, when Stephen Werner took a Sterling pass and fired it past Lombard. But the deadlock was broken with the first of two costly USA turnovers, the first of which came from Denis Nam on a breakaway 2:41 into the third. Two minutes and twenty two seconds later, Higgins took a pretty feed from team captain Luke Earl and lifted the puck past Roth to give the Elis a 5-3 advantage.
“Those two turnovers were the difference in the game,” Eaves said. “We were tied up, had confidence, but those two turnovers basically allowed them to walk right in.”
The Bulldogs would augment their advantage with goals from Dwyer at 13:40 and Rodgers at 18:06 on a power play to put the game away.
Lombard had 14 saves in net for Yale, and Taylor was pleased with the senior goalie’s performance.
“He had a very good game,” Taylor said. “He made some great saves. He needed this game.”
The Elis kick off their ECAC regular season campaign on the road Nov. 9 at Clarkson, and Taylor is optimistic about the team’s chances.
“I am pleased with where we are right now,” Taylor said. “We do have another step to take, but I think we are ready for that, and we have enough confidence in ourselves.”