NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Rensselaer forward Oren Eizenman has had an impressive junior campaign. His quick hands make him a constant threat to score, and his 28 points rank second among the Engineers.
Recently, however, Eizenman has struggled to find the net, and when he was ejected in the third period of Saturday’s game at Yale for checking from behind, his dismissal ensured two things: that he would endure a fourth consecutive contest without a point, and that the Bulldogs (7-10-2, 6-6-1) would cruise 5-0 to a sixth ECACHL win in their last seven tries.
Yale set the tone early with a dominant first period in which they outshot (13-5), outscored (1-0) and thoroughly outplayed the Engineers (11-11-3, 5-4-3).
“I thought they played a much more physical game than we did, especially in the first period,” Rensselaer head coach Dan Fridgen said. “That was the difference. They were beating us to loose pucks and we weren’t moving our feet.”
Matt Nelson scored the first period’s lone goal when he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and carried in three-on-one. Nelson looked to pass to winger Matt Thomey on the far side but, when he couldn’t find a passing lane, aimed at RPI goalie Matthias Lange and beat the freshman with a hard wrist shot that hugged the near post.
“That first period was our best offensive period of the year,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said.
In the second period Joe Zappala tallied Yale’s next score when he banged home linemate Zach Mayer’s shot.
The Bulldogs added a third goal two minutes later and just 16 seconds into their first power-play chance when Jeff Hristovski, Yale’s top scorer, netted his ninth of the season.
Despite allowing two more goals, Rensselaer outshot Yale in the second period and began to mount an aggressive attack early in the third. When Eizenman was whistled for the five-minute major, it came in the offensive zone and with the Engineers on a power play. The hit, which sent Yale defenseman Bill LeClerc crumpling into the boards, incited an eight-man shoving match, including all the players on the ice except the anguished LeClerc. As Eizenman was escorted to the dressing room by the referee, fans stood and applauded while the band sounded a fitting exit number.
“I thought we dictated the pace early in the third,” Fridgen said. “When you’re down a few goals, momentum is key. We had a few shifts where they were back on their heels, we just could never sustain it throughout the game.”
Rejuvenated with the help of a 4:12 power play, Yale added two more goals before the final buzzer. Meanwhile, on the other end, freshman goalie Alec Richards made 29 saves to earn the first shutout of his career.
“This was the best 60 minutes of defensive hockey we’ve played all year,” Richards said. “They had a couple of quality chances in the second, but overall there weren’t a lot of difficult saves I had to make.”
When that final buzzer did sound, Richards performed a little shuffle dance before getting mauled by his teammates. It seems, just in time for a trip to Colgate and Cornell, Yale has found its swagger.