PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Yale’s top line was dominant Friday, accounting for four of the Bulldogs’ five goals, as Yale snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 road win. Most of the action came in a wide open first period, when Yale erased a 2-1 Brown lead with three unanswered goals.
Neither team would find the net again until the final seconds, when freshman sensation Chris Higgins scored his second into an empty net. Higgins’ return was vital to Bulldog offense, which thrived off mistakes in the Brown end throughout the first period.
“Chris Higgins coming back makes all our lines more functional,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “It gives us four capable lines that can skate against pretty much anyone.”
Higgins, with four points on the night, centered a line also featuring captain Luke Earl and Vin Hellemeyer. Hellemeyer and Higgins each had a pair of goals, three of which were assisted by Earl.
Going into the second trailing 4-2, the Bears played in spurts of decent hockey, but failed to ever get within one goal. Yale goaltender Dan Lombard stopped 19 shots in the second and third (31 overall) to earn his fifth win of the season.
The major difference in the pivotal first was Yale’s play in the Brown zone. The Bulldogs took advantage of soft defensive play and giveaways in the offensive end with opportunistic scoring, for the most part thanks to Higgins’ line.
Yale got on the board first. A Higgins centering pass from behind the net eventually found Hellemeyer, who beat Brown’s Brian Eklund. The Bears answered with goals from Shane Mudryk and Jason Wilson to take the lead. The play in the first went back and forth, with neither team playing crisp in their own end, leading to several great chances for the opposition.
A long period of pressure on the Brown net led to the Bulldog evener. Eventually Nathan Murphy beat Eklund from point blank past his catching glove to make it 2-2.
Hellemeyer got the game winner with just over four minutes left in the first off a draw in the Brown end. Higgins moved the faceoff directly to Hellemeyer in front who fired a bullet past Eklund’s glove.
Later in the first, Higgins again created a goal from behind the net, this time slipping one in the near side post when it appeared he would go behind the net. The goal deflated both the Bears and Eklund, who has been struggling in net recently.
“For us to give up four goals in the first period is just not our game,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “That was our downfall tonight.”
Sophomore Yann Danis, who has seen the bulk of the action for the Bears in December and January, relieved Eklund at the start of the second. He shut the door on the Bulldogs’ offense, stopping 21 shots until he was pulled for an extra skater with under two minutes left in the third period.
The Brown offense, which perennially finds the net on few occasions, was stymied in the second and third by Lombard. The Bears looked to cut the lead to one on many chances early in the second and at times during the third, but the bounces seemed to go Yale’s way. The Bulldogs were happy to sit on their heels and play a solid defensive game during the second and third for the win.
“We can play better defensively than we did tonight,” Taylor said. “But Danny [Lombard] put us in a position to win and we got him some goals.”
The Bulldogs will look to keep on track in conference play tomorrow night at Harvard. Brown, after earning seven points in its first seven conference games, has just one in the last four games. It will look to reverse that slide Saturday when it hosts Princeton.