NEW HAVEN, Conn. — For Yale’s 10 seniors, the eighth time proved to be a charm.
In what could be their last chance against Harvard, the senior Bulldogs gave their school its first victory against the Crimson since March 1, 2002, with a 4-3 win in New Haven Sunday.
The Bulldogs put to rest memories of a nightmarish home meltdown two years ago, when the Crimson scored five goals in the third period to win 7-5, as well as a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss in Cambridge Nov. 18.
But for all the history surrounding the rivalry game, it was a freshman who led the way for Yale. Alec Richards, making just the sixth start of his career, had 37 saves to give Yale its third win and second in a row.
“The good goaltending was the catalyst for us,” Yale coach Tim Taylor said. “What can I say about Alec Richards?”
Yale’s Jean-Francois Boucher got the scoring started just 19 seconds into the first period. After Joe Zappala found Nate Jackson with an outlet pass for a two-on-one, Jackson dropped the puck for Boucher, who beat Harvard goalie Justin Tobe low for his team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Jon Pelle evened the score three minutes later. Skating with a man-advantage after Yale’s Jeff Hristovski was whistled for holding, Pelle buried the big rebound of Dylan Reese’s blast from the point.
Yale began to pull away in the second period. At the tail end of a lackluster power play, Bulldog winger Blair Yaworski found defenseman Matthew Craig, who had crept in from the point, with a backdoor pass for an easy goal.
Michael Karwoski gave Yale a 3-1 lead at 13:54 of the period. Breaking in on Tobe with Harvard center Kevin Du draped all over him, Karwoski deked to the far right side and forehanded in his second career goal.
Less than a minute later, Matt Thomey scored the eventual game-winner by deflecting a shot from the blue line.
Richards handled the defense for Yale. The 6-4 Minnesota native delighted the home crowd with a sprawling toe save on a one-timer from center Jimmy Fraser, and he added a sterling stop on a wraparound attempt by winger Dave Watters.
Yale played with tremendous energy throughout the contest, doling out big hit after big hit — particularly one by Boucher on Fraser — and Harvard coach Ted Donato was disappointed to see his team fail to answer.
“They were emotional,” he said. “They played to their crowd and deserve credit. They played hard. We didn’t respond to their physicality in the way I would’ve liked.”
Harvard mounted a comeback in the third period, outshooting Yale 18-4 in the final frame. Pelle was involved in the scoring again while lurking behind the net. He fed Tom Walsh a quick pass and the defenseman rocketed a one-timer past Richards.
The Crimson drew within one at 18:44 when Charlie Johnson, who had three points on the day, jammed a rebound past Richards. But they could not get the equalizer.
“[In the third period] we just realized we were desperate and started putting some good pressure on net,” Pelle said. “If we had played like that all game I think there would’ve been a different result.”
In the home locker room, it was all smiles for the Bulldogs, who go into the holiday break on a high note.
“We got some wonderful goaltending, timely goals, some great penalty killing, and a hard effort from all 21 guys that were dressed for the game,” Taylor said. “Everybody did their role tonight. We got big shifts from the first line all the way to the fourth line. It was Yale-Harvard at its best at Ingalls Rink.”