PRINCETON, N.J. — With goaltender Eric Leroux recording his first career shutout, the Princeton Tigers weathered a first-period storm from Yale and blanked the Bulldogs for the first time since 1968 in a 3-0 contest at Baker Rink.
Yale fell to 2-7-0 (2-5-0 ECAC), while the Tigers improved to 3-6-0 (3-4-0).
The Tigers grabbed a first-period 1-0 lead despite being outplayed by the Elis, but built momentum throughout a second period in which they outshot Yale 19-4.
“I don’t think we came out and were prepared to play in the first period,” said Princeton head coach Les Quesnelle. “In the second period we started to play smarter and harder.”
The shutout was Princeton’s first since it blanked Harvard 3-0 in its last regular-season game in the 2001-2002 season.
“A shutout really reflects the entire team’s effort,” said Leroux. “Lots of things have to go right — you have to have good backchecking and offense too.”
Yale goaltender Matt Modelski, who has been in net for both of Yale’s two wins this season, played well in his fourth start and recorded 30 saves. But the Bulldogs’ inability to clear the puck cost them dearly, and three different Princeton skaters — Mike Patton, Mark Masters, and Dustin Sproat — were able to score.
“We need to play 60 minutes every game,” Modelski said. “We took a step forward against Vermont, but tonight we took a step back.”
Both teams entered the game with identical 2-6-0 overall records and 2-4-0 records in the ECAC. It seemed during the first period that the visiting Bulldogs had the advantage, as they outshot Princeton 10-4.
With Ryan Trowbridge called for tripping 6:05 into the first, Princeton earned the first power play opportunity. The Bulldogs nearly scored a shorthanded goal when Ryan Steeves stole the puck in the neutral zone and went in on a breakaway, but Leroux stopped the initial shot and no one was there to get the rebound.
Instead, the Tigers took the puck to the other end and Patton, assisted by Seamus Young, ripped the puck from the top of the right circle past Modelski to give the Tigers their 1-0 lead.
The second period clearly belonged to the Tigers, who peppered Modelski with shots. The rookie goaltender came up with a number of big saves on point-blank opportunities, but was not backed up well by his teammates, who had trouble getting the puck out of the zone.
With less than five minutes to play in the second, the Tigers caught a good break when a puck passed from behind the net caromed off a Yale skate and past Modelski. Mike Masters was credited for his first goal of the season, and Colin Koch picked up the assist on the 2-0 goal.
“Every game we have to come out how we did in the second period,” Patton said of the Tigers, who with their third win of the season have already tied last year’s win total.
After Dustin Sproat notched his first goal of the season 1:38 into the third, on the power-play, the Tigers found themselves with a comfortable 3-0 lead.
“This team needs back-to-back great efforts,” Quesnelle said. “We’ve been good one night but flat the next.”
The same is true for the Bulldogs. Both of Yale’s victories this season have been must-win Saturday contests that followed dismal Friday night games. After defeating Vermont in a good game last Saturday, the Elis were unable to string together a pair of wins tonight.
The two travel partners will face each other again in four days, when Princeton travels to New Haven for a Saturday night contest at 7 p.m. in Ingalls Rink.
“Yale’s a big rival of ours,” Patton said. “Right now we have six points in the league, and if we win Saturday we’ll be right up there in the ECAC.”