NEW HAVEN, Conn. — According to Stace Page, scoring the game winner in overtime of the game between Yale and St. Lawrence — a goal which gave the Saints their first overtime victory since November 2001 and ended the longest home game in Yale history — was really quite simple.
“The puck just found me,” said Page, whose tip-in of a rebound with 1:18 to play in overtime gave the Saints a 4-3 victory — one which seemed to be far out of their reach during the opening minutes of the wild and unpredictable game.
The game featured a pair of crucial ejections, none bigger than Yale’s loss of goalie Josh Gartner for almost two whole periods, and all of Game 2. It also featured over 50 shots by St. Lawrence, which won just its third road game of the season.
Pete Dobrowolski, who had played just one game going into tonight, replaced Gartner and put forth a remarkable performance for the Bulldogs in the impromptu role. The senior goaltender picked up 38 saves, including some big stops in the closing minutes of regulation and 10 in overtime alone.
“I thought he did a great job,” said St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh. “Maybe their guys also played that much more inspired around him.”
On the other end of the ice was a superb Mike McKenna, who stopped 39 shots and made 12 saves in overtime, many of which came on Yale’s quality chances. The Bulldogs outplayed SLU in the extra period, earning a number of breakaways and well-set-up attempts, but were unable to bury the puck.
“He made some unbelieveable saves,” Marsh said. “I think he was mad at himself in the beginning, but he’s playing really well right now and he covers a lot of the net.”
McKenna was also in net the last time SLU had an overtime victory, which was way back in a 2001 regular season game against Providence. But he noted he had never played in an overtime game where the extra period is longer than five minutes.
“I’ve never played one of these in my life,” he said. “But even though it’s sudden death it really isn’t any different than the rest of the game. The mentality is still just to stop the puck.”
The Bulldogs, clearly fired up after a string of poor losses, powered to an early 1-0 lead just 14 seconds in, winning the opening faceoff and earning a low-angle shot by Ryan Steeves.
Things only unraveled for the Saints after that, as John Zeiler picked up a penalty 31 seconds later. And when Adam Hogg received a game misconduct for hitting from behind and was ejected, the game went from bad to worse.
But the Saints managed to kill off the 5-minute major, and while it was not immediately apparent, salvage the game for their team.
“Things definitely could have been worse,” said Page. “We had a major penalty we killed off, and that takes away a lot of their momentum.”
Hogg was not the only player to be ejected from the game. Early in the second period, Gartner retaliated against a crowding SLU player by spearing him with the end of his stick. The butt-ending penalty assessed to Gartner carried with it an automatic game disqualification, meaning he will also have to sit out Saturday.
“The kid was in his crease,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “And Josh did go after him with his stick. It’s in the rulebook, so what can you say.”
Overshadowed in Yale’s loss was the play of Nate Jackson, who scored twice for the Bulldogs. The sophomore gave the Elis a 2-0 lead in the first period with a patient shot and netted the game-tying goal with a pretty wrister on the power play with 1:29 to play in the third.
On the other side, Page put in two goals of his own. The first tied the game 2-2 shortly after Gartner’s ejection, and the second came after a nice series of plays by his teammates. An indirect board pass enabled the Saints to penetrate the Yale zone, and after Dobrowolski stopped the initial shot, Page gathered the puck off the rebound and won the game.
“It’s great to have [Page] back in the lineup and contributing the way he is,” said Jamie Parker, who scored a key go-ahead goal for SLU with just 18 seconds remaining in the second period.
With the score 2-0 in the first period after goals from Steeves and Jackson, SLU managed to crawl back into the game when a wide-open Rich Peverly scored on the power play. The goal was also a turning point in the shot count.
At one point in the first, Yale was outshooting the Saints 11-4, but with Peverly’s goal at the 15:00 minute mark the shot count was evened at 11-11. The Saints went on to outshoot the Bulldogs 59-42.
Throughout the second period, the Elis displayed a troubling inability to clear the puck from their zone, a problem which has plagued them throughout their recent slide and directly led to Page’s first goal.
Parker’s go-ahead goal with 18 seconds to play in the second was a rocket that knocked the water bottle off the top of the Bulldog net.
“That was a huge goal at the end of the period,” said Marsh.
The Bulldogs remained in the game, with Dobrowolski giving them every opportunity to even things up. With 8:10 left to play, a mishandled puck by a Yale defenseman enabled T.J. Treveylan to go in alone on Dobrowolski. The netminder played his angles well and made a superb pad save that revitalized the Bulldog crowd as well as the players, who narrowly missed the tying goal in a flurry of offensive effort.
The Bulldogs continued to press, and when Mike Madill was whistled for an interference penalty with 3:06 left, Taylor called a time out to discuss the power play strategy.
St. Lawrence did a great job for the majority of the power play, clearing the puck over and over and frustrating Yale. But with 23 ticks remaining on the man advantage, Christian Jensen fed the puck cross-ice to Joe Callahan, who put a shot on net that hit off a Saints skate and was netted by Jackson.
Throughout an overtime period in which the players grew visibly exhausted, Yale dominated in quality scoing chances. A stunning NHL-caliber dangle move by Jensen late in the period nearly beat McKenna for the win, but the netminder was able to make the stop.
“I couldn’t believe he pulled a move like that in overtime,” McKenna said. “He made an amazing move — Mike Madill never gets beaten like that — and I just stretched out and laid down. I’m lucky I’m 6-[foot-]2.”
Just about a minute later, Page’s goal gave the Saints the victory and set the stage for what will be an interesting second game in the best-of-three series. Last season, SLU defeated Colgate in the first game on the road, only to lose two heartbreakers and the series.
Yale, too, has playoff ghosts to fight off after coming off a first-round bye only to be upset by Brown at Ingalls last season.
The two teams will battle again tomorrow night at 7 p.m.