NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Chris Higgins and Ryan Steeves each had a goal and an assist and Peter Cohen made 25 saves as Yale earned a 5-2 victory over Rensselaer before a soldout crowd of 3,486 at Ingalls Rink.
The Bulldogs, who had focused on the power play heading into the contest, found special teams success of a different kind, with their first two goals of the game coming shorthanded.
Yale’s first penalty-kill opportunity turned into the game’s first goal after a steal in the RPI zone. Higgins came away with the puck and flipped it to Vin Hellemeyer, who sent it back to Higgins who was breaking in on the RPI net with a defender on his back. Higgins sent a wrister from 15 feet and it found the back of the net, carrying over the left shoulder of Engineer netminder Kevin Kurk (25 saves) at 15:16 of the first period.
“Shorthanded goals are far more important than any other type,” Higgins said. “We had two tonight. That really helped.”
Rensselaer outshot Yale in the first period, 11-8, but Cohen made several big stops to keep the Engineers from lighting the lamp.
Midway through the second stanza, the sophomore netminder came up big once again to keep it 1-0 after a pair of Yale penalties gave Rensselaer a two-man advantage for 32 seconds.
The Bulldogs then scored their second shorthanded goal when Steeves won a draw in the RPI end and fed Jeff Dwyer at the left point. Dwyer sent a wrist shot that may have bounced off a defender before finding its way past Kurk with 4:24 left in the second.
Both squads capitalized on power plays early in the third. Nick Deschenes took a feed from Higgins and got off a quick snap shot that beat Kurk low to the stick side at 3:39 to put the Elis up 3-0.
Rensselaer responded with its own power play score less than a minute later. Mark Yurkewecz banged home a rebound at 4:18 after a couple of tough saves by Cohen to draw the Engineers within two at 3-1.
Steeves made it 4-1 in favor of the home squad with a nice move in front of the net after stealing the pick at the red line. The Eli center fired a low shot to Kurk’s stick side that bounced off the post and slid over the goal line at 7:11.
Rensselaer answered once again, though, cutting the lead to two again on a pretty feed from Vic Pereira to Kevin Croxton just over one minute later at the 8:18 point. Croxton was tangled up with Eli blueliner Matthew Craig, but managed to flip a shot past the stick of Cohen to make it 4-2.
The Elis scored the game’s final goal on a back-and-forth play between the circles in the RPI end. Jeff Hristovski sent a low shot to the back of the net at 16:36 to ice the game at 5-2.
“This was not a very pretty win, but it was a really good win,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “We survived a lackluster first period through the strength of our goaltending. We played better in the second but were still fighting the penalty bug [the Elis had four penalties in the stanza].
“The third period we showed good elements of character, and each time they scored, we answered.”
The victory marked Yale’s second consecutive league win.
“We are headed in the right direction,” Steeves said. “We need to skate hard every night to win and stick to the game plan, and it paid off tonight.”
Yale hosts Union Saturday night while Rensselaer heads to Princeton.