NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Four hours before the start of Super Bowl XL, Yale and UConn dropped the puck for a nonconference matinee. On Youth Day at Ingalls Rink, it seemed few over age 10 actually wanted to be at a hockey game Sunday — including many of the players themselves.
In 55 sloppy minutes and a riveting final five, the slightly less lethargic Bulldogs (8-12-3, 6-8-2) topped their in-state rivals, 4-3.
The win gives Yale a split in its second-to-last home weekend of the regular season, while the loss keeps UConn (7-18-1, 6-14-0) winless in ten 2006 games.
Early on it seemed as though Yale would breeze to victory.
Less than two minutes into the first period, the Bulldogs capitalized on their first shot. With UConn caught in a bad change, the youthful Yale trio of freshmen Michael Karwoski and Matt Nelson and sophomore Blair Yaworski took advantage. Carrying the puck along his own blue line, Karwoski head-manned the puck to Yaworski, who found Nelson for a two-on-one goal.
“I’ve only been urging that line to play responsibly defensively, because I know the offense will take care of itself,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said.
Yaworski had another fine setup in the second period. With a J.R. Corkery interference penalty leaving the Huskies a man down, Yaworski drew the entire UConn penalty-kill unit as he wound up for a slapshot. He then found Bill LeClerc creeping in from the blue line and watched the defenseman unleash a rising slapshot that beat Jon Anderson for a 2-0 lead.
The Huskies responded in kind the next time they were on the power play. Forward Cole Koidahl, exploiting an exhausted Yale penalty-kill unit at the end of a long shift, spotted Scott McDougall behind the defense. He lifted a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Josh Gartner, a senior getting his first start since Nov. 19.
Nate Jackson and Nelson provided Yale’s third and fourth goals before UConn mounted a late comeback during an 18-shot third period.
Defenseman Will Crum brought the Huskies within two on his seventh goal of the year, good for second among Atlantic Hockey blueliners.
Then Nick Schneider made it a one-goal game when a Yale backchecker failed to cover him pursuing a big Gartner rebound.
A potential tying goal was waved off with 0.5 seconds remaining when the official ruled that Gartner had covered the puck before the Huskies dislodged it. The Bulldogs had chances to extend their lead, including a breakaway shot by Jean-Francois Boucher that clanged off the crossbar, but were otherwise outplayed in the final frame as they limped off with a 4-3 victory.
“We knew coming into the game it was a trap game, playing against an inferior opponent,” Nelson said. “It’s easy to get sucked into bad habits when you’re playing a team like that.”
Asked if the strong finish might provide the springboard to future success, Marshall was jocular.
“Well, we can’t spring anymore backwards.”