NEW HAVEN, Conn. — With Brown holding on to a 2-1 lead during the second intermission of its game against the Yale Bulldogs, one shout in the Bears’ locker room stuck out over the din: “Get better with every shift!”
That’s exactly what the Bears did. After a subpar first period, the Bears bettered their play over the course of a physical, chippy game. Vince Macri recorded the eventual game-winning goal in the second period, and the Bears added two more in the third to defeat the Elis 4-1 at sold-out Ingalls Rink.
“Tonight we got consistently better,” said Macri, whose power-play goal out of traffic at 11:19 of the second period proved to be the game-winner for the Bears. “I think we’ve gotten used to keeping up our level of pressure over the game.”
The Bears, who improved to 14-5-4 overall and 12-3-1 in the ECAC, saved some of their best play for the end of the game. Instead of sitting back on defense to preserve their lead, they relentlessly attempted to increase it.
Yale goaltender Josh Gartner, coming off a 51-save performance in the Elis’ catastrophic 7-5 loss to Harvard one night before, was solid again in making a number of sprawling saves in succession in the third period. But Brown continued to press throughout the final period, with Nick Ringstad scoring to give his team a 3-1 lead and Mike Meech cementing it with his unassisted score at 13:17.
Of Brown’s four goals, two came on the power play, and one was a shorthander.
“We have a chance sometimes to sit back on a lead,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “But we learned our lesson last night against Princeton, when we were up 2-0 and sat back, and they came back to tie it in the second period. So tonight we stayed hard all game.”
Yale, for its part, learned a lesson Friday as well. After leading Harvard 4-0 in the first period and 5-3 with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Elis spotted the Crimson three goals within a minute in the third period as part of a 6-0 run that resulted in a 7-5 Harvard victory.
And so the Bulldogs came out hard early, setting the tone for an enormously physical game punctuated by huge checks both along the boards and on open ice. Of 17 penalties during the game, eight were for roughing.
“Things got pretty chippy, which is actually good for us,” Macri said. “We have a lot of speed, so it’s good to test our physical play.”
After defenseman Matt Craig was called for roughing 5:07 into the game, the Bears took little time to score on the ensuing power play, with Brent Robinson notching a score just 36 seconds into the extra-man advantage with a rising one-timer from the slot.
“One of our game-plan bullet points was to stay out of the box, and we didn’t do that,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “We took too many frustration penalties — a good defensive team like that frustrates you.”
Later in the period, the Elis earned back-to-back power plays of their own and demonstrated fluid puck movement as they peppered Brown goalie Yann Danis.
One finally went in just one second after the power play had expired, with Jeff Dwyer and Ryan Steeves getting the puck on goal and Jeff Hristovski recording his 10th of the year on the right side rebound.
Macri broke the scoreless second period with a power-play goal in front of Gartner to give Brown the 2-1 lead on the Elis. The remainder of the period grew increasingly physical, ending in a crushing check on Nate Murphy by Paul Crosty that knocked Murphy’s helmet off.
After the Bears were whistled for tripping, Yale embarked on a thrilling power play that included numerous slapshots from Jeff Dwyer and Joe Callahan on the point and a near-miss for Nate Jackson in front of the net.
Danis was nearly perfect on the game, allowing only Hristovski’s score and stopping 32 shots.
“[Danis] is so solid, and he is the beneficiary of a very solid defensive team,” Taylor said. “When you get the puck out front it’s so hard to get your stick down on the ice.”
But despite Yale’s fine work on the power play, the Bears gained possession of the puck and Ringstad earned the shorthanded score to give Brown the 3-1 lead and quiet the Ingalls crowd.
Despite a number of athletic saves by Gartner in the next few minutes, the Brown offense finally connected on a fourth goal, with Meech finding the space between the Yale goaltender’s pads and giving the Bears the 4-1 lead with 7:43 remaining.
From there, the Elis had trouble getting into rhythm and lost their second game in a row after having won six straight. The loss dropped Yale’s record to 11-12-0, with an ECAC standing of 9-7-0.