PRINCETON, N.J. — Yale rebounded from a two-goal deficit with four consecutive goals of its own en route to a 4-3 victory over No. 16 Princeton in game two of an ECAC quarterfinal playoff series tonight before 1,556 at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink. It was the seventh-seeded Bulldogs’ first win in five meetings with the second-seeded Tigers this year and forced a deciding game three tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m., with the winner advancing to the league semifinals in Albany on March 21.
“I’m impressed with our guys,” said second-year Yale coach Keith Allain. “We fell behind, but we got determined rather than frustrated. We played our best with our backs to the wall, and that’s very encouraging.”
Sophomore goaltender Billy Blase, who was making his first start since Feb. 29, had 32 saves for Yale (16-13-4), while Princeton sophomore netminder Zane Kalemba made 22 stops in his 17th straight start for the Tigers (18-13-0). It was also the first loss at home for Princeton in the new calendar year after wins in their first seven games of 2008 at Baker Rink. Princeton had the edge in shots, 35-26, tonight and finished two-for-eight on the power play, while Yale went one-for-four.
“Give them credit,” said fourth-year Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky. “Yale played like a team fighting for its playoff lives, and we were like a team playing just another game. We didn’t match their intensity after the first two goals.”
The teams traded power plays in the first five minutes of play, and Yale center Mark Arcobello hit the post from the left point after Princeton’s Kyle Hagel was penalized for hitting after the whistle just 24 seconds into the game. Princeton then took a 1-0 lead for the second straight night, as the Tigers scored with just 18 seconds left in an interference penalty to Yale’s David Germain. Freshman wing Matt Arhontas connected from in front at 6:31 for his seventh goal of the season and second power-play tally of the series, with assists going to Mark Magnowski and Mike Kramer.
The Tigers then made it a 2-0 affair just 46 seconds after Jeff Anderson had been banished for elbowing. Brett Wilson and Mike Moore set up Cam MacIntyre for a shot from the high slot that resulted in the sophomore winger’s 10th marker of the campaign, just 31 seconds into the power play.
“You go 0-for-2 on the kill to start the game, it usually doesn’t bode too well,” said Allain.
The visiting Bulldogs then used a power play of their own to get back into the contest, as Hagel and Jody Pederson collected consecutive infractions that gave Yale 19 seconds with a two-man advantage. The Bulldogs needed just 14 seconds to get on the scoreboard, as Tom Dignard’s slap shot from the top of the right circle beat Kalemba on the glove side at 9:28 to cut the deficit to one. Broc Little set up the score, Dignard’s fourth of the year, with a pass from the right corner.
“It didn’t surprise me that Yale fought for their lives,” said Gadowsky. “They’ve got some hungry hockey players over there.”
Yale knotted matters before the end of the first period, as Jean-Francois Boucher corralled a loose puck in the inner edge of the right circle and wristed it inside the far post at 12:08 for his third of the year to make it 2-2. Blase then made a glove save on the doorstep on a Wilson try with 2:51 left in the period as the Tigers milled about the Yale zone on their fourth power play of the evening, and then Blase emphatically held up his glove with the puck nestled safely inside.
“Billy did a good job,” said Allain of his goaltender, who picked up his 13th win. “He gave us just what we needed.”
Yale took its first lead of the series just 18 seconds into the second stanza. Dignard’s shot from the left side was stopped by Kalemba, but Bulldogs’ freshman Brendan Mason was right there in front to put the rebound home for his fifth goal of the winter. The Bulldogs made it a 4-2 contest exactly 10 minutes later, as Little one-timed Denny Kearney’s pass from the left side past Kalemba for his 11th goal.
“Usually, the team that works harder gets the bounces,” said Gadowsky. “They outworked us, and that’s what you saw tonight. They played for their lives, in both the offensive and defensive zones, and they blocked a lot of shots.”
Princeton had two power-play opportunities in the third period, but couldn’t set up a sustained attack in the Yale zone on either one. The Tigers pulled Kalemba for an extra attacker with 4:19 left and began to carry the play in the Bulldogs’ end of the ice, but still couldn’t convert a number of chances. Blase stretched out to make a pad save on Wilson at the right post with 2:52 left, and then made a glove save through a screen on Moore’s wrist shot from the right point off a face-off four seconds later.
“Give Billy credit,” said Gadowsky. “He made a lot of great saves.”
Yale later iced the puck and Princeton called a time-out with a minute left, and then the Tigers got back within a goal. MacIntyre went to the net with a Wilson feed off the ensuing face-off from the left side, and scored at 19:01 for his second of the night. Kalemba stayed out of the Princeton goal for a sixth skater, and the Tigers managed to get two more face-offs and several more shots down the other end; but a last attempt from the right boards with just four seconds remaining was blocked, sending the best-of-three series to a deciding contest on Sunday night.
“I think tomorrow will be a great game,” said Allain. “Obviously, they’re a very good team who fought us tooth-and-nail to the end, and it should be interesting. We’re thrilled we get to play another day.”