MINNEAPOLIS — For the second straight night, Yale goaltender Josh Gartner put forward an outstanding effort. Saturday, the Bulldogs were able to enjoy the fruits of his labors.
Gartner — the son of NHL great Mike Gartner — made 44 saves to lead the Bulldogs to a much-needed 5-1 victory over Bowling Green in the consolation game of the Dodge Holiday Classic.
“I know Bowling Green’s been struggling a little bit,” said Yale coach Tim Taylor, “but it’s important for us to measure ourselves against other conferences. The victory was the Bulldogs’ first in three games outside the ECAC.
The rookie’s performance came one night after an impressive debut in relief, in which he stopped 17 shots while allowing just one goal.
“My first college [start] is a big thing,” said Gartner, who was informed he would be in net two hours before game time. “I just wanted to give the team a chance to win.”
Yale’s top two lines scored its first four goals and totaled eight points in the contest, which saw Bowling Green outshoot the Bulldogs 45-28.
“I thought we won this game in a strange way,” said Taylor, who earned his 300th career victory as a collegiate coach, all with Yale. “It was a strange two-game set for us.”
There weren’t many in attendance for the third-place game, and even fewer arrived in time to see Yale (8-5-0, 7-3-0 ECAC) take a two-goal advantage.
Off a two-on-one break, Vin Hellemeyer put back the rebound of Nick Deschenes’ shot to give the Bulldogs the lead at 3:44 of the first period. Thirteen seconds later, Ryan Steeves buried Christian Jensen’s pass from behind the net past Tyler Masters to put the Falcons down 2-0.
Bowling Green (3-12-1, 1-9-1 CCHA), meanwhile, had few quality chances in the early going, getting just three grade-A scoring chances in the first period.
Yale extended its lead to three at 18:46, with leading scorer Evan Wax tallying his 11th goal of the season off assists from Deschenes and Hellemeyer.
The Falcons were stronger in the second period, outshooting Yale 17-10, peppering the net from close range and forcing Gartner to make several quality stops.
Those efforts paid off as Bowling Green finally got on the board at 14:50. Gartner blocked down captain D’Arcy McConvey’s shot from the slot, but Steve Brudzewski cleaned up the loose puck to make it 3-1.
A relatively clean and quick game got a little nastier in the third, with Bowling Green’s Roger Leonard picking up a game misconduct amidst some harder and later hits by both sides.
But despite continued BGSU pressure and a mounting Falcon shot count, Yale put the game away midway through the third with two more goals.
A dead-on outlet pass by Greg Boucher found Steeves at the blue line, and the Rockland, Ont., native beat Masters one-on-one with a twisting wrist shot for his second goal of the game and ninth of the year.
The Bulldogs’ Jeff Hristovski added the fifth goal, taking a pass from Mike Klema and wristing it high glove-side from between the circles at 13:28 to produce the 5-1 final.
Gartner’s weekend may have altered Yale’s goaltending plans for the rest of the season.
“I think Josh has clearly jumped into the mix, where he wasn’t there before,” said Taylor. “He’s certainly earned the right to play — whether that will be against New Hampshire [Thursday], I don’t know.”
“I came in with no expectations,” said Gartner. “Obviously we graduated our starting goaltender last year, so I just wanted to work hard and wait for an opportunity.”
Yale hosts UNH in a nonconference tilt Thursday, while Bowling Green returns to CCHA action by entertaining Alaska-Fairbanks Friday and Saturday.