NEW HAVEN, Conn. — For a Yale team playing its last home game in front of a sellout crowd, what began as a painful blowout turned into an exciting, if ultimately unsatisfying, contest between two teams — the Elis and the Dartmouth Big Green — that could face each other in the playoffs.
The Elis went down as much as 5-1 just minutes into the second period before staging an impressive rally that kept loyal Ingalls fans in their seats until the final minutes. With two pretty fast-break goals, Yale narrowed Dartmouth’s lead to 5-3 before being shut down by the Green in the final period to end the game at that score.
The win improved Dartmouth to 15-10-2 while dropping the Bulldogs to 4-21-2.
Dartmouth forward Chris Snizek and goalie Dan Yacey were the stars of the game, with Snizek scoring twice — and nearly notching the hat trick — while adding an assist on Ben Lovejoy’s first-period goal.
Yacey made 25 saves in net and held the surging Elis to two second-period goals despite being peppered with quality chances.
“He was unbelievable,” Snizek said of his netminder teammate. “It was probably the top three games I’ve seen him play, if not the best.”
For his part, Snizek scored what would become the game winner when he netted Dartmouth’s fourth goal of the night with 59 seconds to play in the first period. He struck again just 2:26 into the second, extending the Green’s lead to 5-1 and providing too much of a hill for Yale to climb.
“He’s played real hard and it was nice to see him break out tonight,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “It was huge of him to capitalize and get those fourth and fifth goals.”
The Bulldogs were down, but not out, after Snizek’s second of the game. A furious second period in which Yale managed 14 shots, almost all of them close chances, narrowed Dartmouth’s lead to two.
Junior Nate Jackson picked up a goal and an assist on plays that were nearly identical, both of them streaking two-on-ones in which needle-threading passes found the stick of the scorer.
The first goal was a pretty pass from Joe Zappala to Jackson 5:13 into the second, while it took Yale the remainder of the period to score again despite the fact that they outskated Dartmouth in the second 20 minutes of the game. This time it was Jackson finding Jeff Hristovski, who put Yale down 5-3 going into the second intermission.
“I think they relaxed a lot in the second, which is what happens when you’re up 5-1,” Jackson said. “We definitely didn’t want to go out that way in our last home game. We really gave the fans something to cheer for.”
It was largely the play of senior goaltender Pete Cohen that enabled Yale to continue to pull close to the Big Green. Cohen, who substituted for Josh Gartner after the junior gave up Yale’s third goal of the evening, made 26 saves in an inspiring performance in his last home game.
“Pete played really well, and I’m glad he had that finish to his senior year,” Jackson said. “He kept us in the game and had the saves he needed to keep us alive.”
The Big Green, fighting with Vermont for the last first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs and fresh off a disappointing loss to Princeton, had other plans. They shut down Yale in the third, holding the Bulldogs to only five shots in that period, and withstood the pressure when Yale pulled Cohen in favor of an extra skater late in the closing minutes.
“We knew if we came out there and outworked them, and beat them to the pucks, we’d get opportunities and shut them down,” Snizek said.
Said Gaudet, “It was a good two points tonight. Yale played well, and even when we had a lead of 5-1 we didn’t seem too confident on the bench because we knew Yale was very strong and moving the puck well.”
The Elis, who have all but locked up the final spot in the ECAC, take on Union and RPI next week. But the Green have plenty to play for when they face Harvard and Brown next weekend as they battle for the final bye.
Snizek had an easy answer for how Dartmouth could earn that fourth seed next weekend.
“Win both,” he said with a grin.