NEW HAVEN, Conn. — With his team leading 2-1 early in the third period, Union’s Jordan Webb skated in alone on Yale goalie Josh Gartner, went left, and took a penalty shot on the sophomore goalie. Gartner stuffed the puck stick side, pumping his fist in celebration as a sellout Ingalls Rink exploded.
It was a play that, in most cases, should serve as a textbook turning point in a hockey game. But the Dutchmen saw to it that Yale would not take advantage of the momentum, clamping down on the Bulldogs all over the ice and adding an insurance goal to win the game 3-1.
“We should have latched on to that momentum,” said Yale Head Coach Tim Taylor, whose team has lost four straight. “The bench was uplifted, but the next shift we couldn’t even get out of our zone.”
Instead, the Elis allowed Union to pepper Gartner with shot after shot, failing to clear the rebounds off Gartner’s pads and enabling Webb to score Union’s third goal — his second of the game — with 9:14 remaining.
“[The missed penalty shot] was in the back of my mind,” Webb said. “I kinda thought I had the goalie but he made a good save. It could have been a momentum change but the next shift they came out and worked hard and we were able to get the third goal.”
The final score was barely indicative of Yale’s woes, as the Bulldogs gave up 47 shots to the Dutchmen while recording only 24 of their own. A number of quality Yale chances did not even challenge Union goalie Kris Mayotte because they missed the net altogether.
“Both teams looked a little sluggish,” said Union Head Coach Nate Leaman. “We had 47 shots and could still only get three goals. I thought Gartner really did a good job making a lot of saves.”
Union controlled the majority of the game through its stifling neutral-zone play, where they trapped the Bulldogs into making poor passes and stole the puck on numerous occasions off Yale sticks. In doing so, the Dutchmen dictated the pace of play, resulting in a slow, physical game without much continuity.
“They’re a very good team in their offensive zone, and they get all five guys involved,” Leaman said. “I thought we did a good job of holding the red line and trying to make them play defense.”
After losing nine straight in late December and early January, the Dutchmen have turned things around and are 6-4-2 since January 16th. Yale, on the other hand, had an undefeated January but have lost 6 of 7 in the month of February.
The first period saw a number of opportunities for both teams, with the Dutchmen being stymied by Gartner on a number of occasions, including midway through the period when the sophomore stopped nearly five point-blank shots in a row. The Elis almost responded with a goal of their own after a great pass from Zach Mayer found Nate Murphy, but Murphy was unable to settle the puck and the game remained scoreless.
It appeared that both teams would end the period in a scoreless tie until a patient pass from Joe Zappala to Vin Hellemeyer was redirected by the Yale captain up to Jeff Hristovski. Hristovski, who has scored 28 points this season, was covered by two Union defenders but managed to power past them and wrist the puck high past Mayotte for the 1-0 lead with 49 seconds to play in the first.
The Dutchmen tied the game at 15:00 of the second period when a low-angle shot from the goal line by Webb found its way to the back of the net. Less than four minutes later, Union took the lead just seconds into a power play, with Jason Visser earning his 10th score of the season when he tipped the puck past Gartner from the low slot.
At 15:49 of the third, Union seemed to score a goal just as the net was dislodged from its hinges, leading the refs to call the penalty shot for Webb that was sticked aside by Gartner. But with 9:14 to play in the game, the Elis once again gave up a flurry of shots to the Dutchmen. Gartner made several initial saves, but Yale’s inability to clear the rebounds enabled Union to finally put the puck in the net.
“We didn’t have any moxie or soul,” said Taylor. “You can’t play without heart and soul. Obviously we just weren’t there, and Union was the better team in all facets of the game.”
The Dutchmen did not let up the entire game, keeping the puck in Yale’s zone during the final minute to ensure that the Elis would not be able to pull Gartner for the extra skater. As time wound down to zero, Union ended the game, fittingly, with a final shot on Yale’s sophomore goaltender.
Gartner finished with 44 saves, including the penalty shot stop, while Mayotte turned away 23 of Yale’s 24 shots.
The Elis (12-16-0, 10-11-0 ECAC) have already clinched home ice in the playoffs, but Union (13-15-5, 7-11-3) is fighting for the final home spot. As of now, Union is tied with St. Lawrence in the ninth place spot, while Clarkson holds the final home ice berth after their 1-0 victory over Colgate. The Bulldogs host St. Lawrence tomorrow at 7:00 p.m., while Union travels to Princeton for a 7:00 p.m. tilt with the Tigers.