DURHAM, N.H. — Ryan Steeves scored his third shorthanded goal of the season and sophomore Josh Gartner recorded 29 saves, as Yale stunned No. 7 New Hampshire, 3-2, at the Whittemore Center.
Steeves had been stoned earlier in the second period by UNH senior netminder Mike Ayers, who made a point-blank save on the senior’s bid on a Bulldog power play. Gartner returned the favor with New Hampshire on the man advantage by stuffing a shot by defenseman Brian Yandle, and Steeves picked up the loose puck and went in alone on Ayers, sending it rooftop to give Yale the lead, 2-1.
Meanwhile, Gartner — son of NHL great Mike Gartner — came up big early and often in the first period with some huge saves, and also late in the third with UNH frantically trying to get the equalizer.
“I think our goaltender was huge in us winning this game,” said Yale coach Tim Taylor. “We got key shifts out of our third and fourth lines. In many ways they were outmatched, but they hung in there.”
On the other side, while New Hampshire coach Dick Umile was disappointed about the outcome, he was more concerned with one aspect of his team: scoring.
“Right now, we’ve got some adversity going on,” said Umile. “The puck isn’t bouncing our way, and we’re not having much luck putting the puck away. I’m really disappointed that we lost an opportunity here tonight.
“But I’m more concerned that we’re not scoring right now.”
Ranked at or near the top nationally the past two seasons in scoring, the usually-potent Wildcats have scored only 11 goals in their last five games.
With its first nonconference victory, Yale improved to 6-10-0 (5-5-0 ECAC), while UNH fell to 11-7-2 (5-3-2 Hockey East).
New Hampshire came out on fire in the first period, controlling play in the Yale end and getting several good scoring chances on Gartner. Wildcat senior Steve Saviano fluttered a nice pass through two Yale defenders to senior Nathan Martz on a two-on-one, but Gartner came up big with the right pad.
Yale drew first blood in the opening frame, when senior Vin Hellemeyer picked up a loose puck a few feet in from the UNH blue line, and sent in a wrist shot that rang off the crossbar and past a shocked Ayers to give the Bulldogs the 1-0 lead.
Gartner later robbed Saviano on a centering pass from Martz, closing the wickets in time to stop the bid.
In an ironic twist, fan favorite Eddie Caron took a center-ice feed from freshman Dan Winnik and skated in alone on Gartner. The second round pick of the Edmonton Oilers potted a goal-scorers goal, faking Gartner left to right before tucking the puck inside the right post to tie things up at 1-1.
At the end of the 2001-2002 season, Caron transferred to Yale, only to transfer back to New Hampshire after 2002-2003 without ever having played for the Bulldogs.
“On a personal level for me, this game was pretty frustrating,” said Caron. “We had our chances tonight. We’ll just have to take this game, learn from it, and use it as a springboard to hopefully have a good second half.”
In the second period, Gartner picked up where he left off, committing grand theft on a Sean Collins shot from the doorstep. Seconds later, UNH appeared to light the lamp, as the goal light came on after a scrum near the crease, but WCHA referee Jon Campion waved it off.
Concord, N.H.’s Robbie Barker made sure of it on the ensuing faceoff, clanging one off the post for his first goal.
But as has been the case for much of the season, the Wildcats could not put the opposition away. And with just 1:29 left in the second stanza, Bulldogs leading scorer Joe Zappala intercepted a pass in the UNH zone, wheeled around the net, and fed Nate Jackson for his first goal of the year to give Yale a 3-2 lead that would stand up.
Jackson and Caron were teammates at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H.
“(Nate) Jackson was my best friend on the (Yale) team last year,” said Caron. “I’m very close to his family.”
In the third period, New Hampshire again had a goal disallowed, this time for goaltender interference, much to the disdain of the sellout crowd.
The Wildcats had their best chance to tie it with less than one minute remaining and Ayers pulled for an extra attacker, but Collins’ shot was stopped by Gartner.
Reflecting on his team’s victory, Taylor mused about how his Bulldogs looked earlier in the day.
“I had to classify our morning skate as the worst one of the year,” he chuckled. “I don’t know what that tells you. Maybe we shouldn’t do them.”
Yale hosts ECAC foe Clarkson next Friday night, while UNH plays at Providence. Both contests are at 7 p.m.