NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Brent Robinson scored 9:40 into overtime, breaking a 43:40 scoreless stretch for Brown to lead the visiting Bears past Yale, 4-3, before a sellout crowd of 3,486 at Ingalls Rink in game one of the ECAC quarterfinals.
“That was a great college hockey game,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “I am very pleased with how we skated tonight. This win is huge for us.”
Yale, the No. 4 seed, outshot No. 5 Brown 44-35, including a 16-6 differential in the third period, but the Bulldogs never led. Yann Danis made 41 saves to earn the victory.
The Bears grabbed the early lead when left wing Cory Caouette, who was tied up with a teammate and a Yale defender around the crease, tipped in Nick Ringstad’s shot from the point at 4:06 of the first for his first career goal. Yale goalie Josh Gartner, who finished with 31 saves on the night, was denied a clear look at the puck due to what looked to be three skaters in the crease, two Brown skaters and one Eli. The officials had a brief discussion and the goal stood, but the officials were without the luxury of press box video replays that indicated that the skaters were indeed in the crease.
Eight minutes later, Yale made use of its second power play opportunity of the night to draw even. Evan Wax took a feed from Chris Higgins and led Vin Hellemeyer over the blueline. Hellemeyer skated to the top of the left circle and blasted the puck past Danis’ stick at 12:01, tying the score at 1-1. Brown out-shot Yale 14-9 in the opening stanza, but the 1-1 score held until first intermission.
Brown grabbed the lead again 37 seconds into the second period. Paul Esdale weaved around a fallen Yale blueliner after taking a feed from Chris Legg and backhanded a shot past Gartner from low in the slot. Five minutes and 23 seconds later, Gartner saved an Esdale shot, but Les Haggett won the battle for the loose puck and netted it at 6:00 for the two-goal lead.
Less than one minute later, Higgins netted a shorthanded goal to cut Yale’s deficit in half. Hellemeyer, carried the puck down the right wing into the Brown zone and fed Higgins who backhanded a shot just inside the post at 6:52.
“That was a nice give and go with Vin [Hellemeyer],” said Higgins of his 20th goal of the season. “I drove towards the net as hard as I could and was able to get a backhand shot off. I think the quickness of it surprised him rather than it being a hard shot. It just found the hole.”
The game went scoreless for the next 30:15, with Yale dominating much of the third period action. Danis appeared unflappable for much of the period, controlling the majority of rebounds and withstanding several Yale flurries. With 2:53 left on the clock, though, Yale freshman Christian Jensen dug out the puck in the left corner, skated through the left circle to the slot and fired a high forehand shot that beat Danis top shelf and brought the crowd to its feet.
The Bulldogs had several chances to take the lead late in the third, but Danis was up to the task each time, and regulation ended with the teams tied at 3-3. Much of Yale’s momentum seemed to stay in the locker room after a 15-minute intermission and about a three-and-a-half minute delay early in the overtime due to a puddle that had accumulated behind the Yale net.
With a fresh 20:00 on the clock for overtime, Brown and Yale exchanged several back and forth shifts, with shots even at 5-5, but it was Robinson who netted the puck 9:40 in to win the game for the visitors. Robinson took a feed from Haggett who beat a Yale defender for possession of the puck, setting up the score that gave Brown a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
“I think everybody from both teams realizes this game could have gone either way,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “I am sure Brown is boosted by the win, but it is our job as coaches and athletes to be ready to play tomorrow night. We need to shake off the negative effects of a tough loss. I have confidence in our character as I have all season long, and I expect us to show our true colors tomorrow night.”