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College Hockey:
Little, Backman Sizzle in Yale Victory

Hot duo leads streaking Bulldogs over Harvard

— In a weekend deuce against Ivy rivals, Yale doubled down and came away with the pot.

One night after a 4-2 win over Dartmouth, the Bulldogs (14-6-3, 10-4-2 in ECAC Hockey) repeated the feat by doubling up arch-rival Harvard in a 6-3 affair.

Six different Bulldogs — Jeff Anderson, Kevin Peel, Brendan Mason, Tom Dignard, Broc Little and Sean Backman — scored goals in front of senior goaltender Billy Blase, who made 20 saves in the victory.

Backman and Mark Arcobello also chipped in two assists in front of Ingalls Rink’s fifth straight sellout crowd. Backman’s three-point effort followed up a goal on Friday, when Arcobello also scored once and Little lit the lamp twice.

“We’d gone a couple of weekends where we hadn’t gotten the sweep” mused Yale head coach Keith Allain. “If you want to keep pace, you need to get two in a weekend. So this was a good win for us.”

Junior Chris Huxley and sophomore Alex Killorn scored for the Crimson (6-13-3, 6-7-3), who have now lost three of four following a four-game unbeaten streak. Third-year netminder Ryan Carroll stopped 41 shots.

“I felt like it was almost three or four hockey games,” assessed Harvard head coach Ted Donato. “The first 20 minutes, they had us on our heels, they outshot us. Second 20, maybe even 25 minutes, I thought we responded well, we were able to take some of that momentum back. In the third, we get the tying goal, and I thought we had a couple good shifts after that. Then we made some mistakes, and we complicated matters by taking a few penalties. That hurt.

“They’re a very dangerous offensive team; we can’t give them any help. And we gave them help.”

Harvard opened the period with a handful of strong shifts, but momentum swiftly shifted to the fleet-footed home team as Yale built tremendous pressure in the Crimson zone. Despite plentiful possession time on Harvard ice, it took nearly 10 minutes for either team to crack the scoreboard’s goose-eggs.

Anderson finally found the net for the Bulldogs, collecting his own rebound with Carroll sprawling helplessly after the puck. Yale thought it may have doubled its lead not two minutes later on a five-hole poke by Little, but despite the friendly goal light and sellout crowd’s entreaties, referees Andy O’Brien and Rob Ritchie ruled that the puck had instead hit the post and bounced loose.

Yale’s Mason then rang Carroll’s iron moments later, and an ensuing whistle found Harvard’s Killorn bin-bound for a hooking minor. The Bulldogs wasted no time in converting the opportunity into another goal, as Peel took a diagonal pass from Sean Backman at the top of the right-wing circle. The defenseman ripped a slap shot from 30 feet out, right through the Harvard goalkeeper for the 2-0 lead at 13:40 of the first period.

The hosts earned another Grade-A chance a minute later as a bounding puck eluded Backman’s blade with Carroll down and out. Harvard got their own good look with about four minutes on the clock, as rookie Marshall Everson pinged Blase’s left post with a solid salvo.

The struggling visitors kept their heads above water though, and created the last great chance of the period when sophomore Eric Kroshus scooped up a mishandled Yale pinch on the right-wing boards. Kroshus swept in on Blase on a 90-foot breakaway, but his wrist shot was vacuumed into the goaltender’s midsection as he fell backward toward the goal line.

Yale blasted Harvard with 17 shots in the game’s first 20 minutes, while Harvard mustered merely four.

Andrew Miller kept Yale’s good vibes afloat early in the second, undressing Crimson defender Ryan Grimshaw before whipping a shot off Carroll’s left shoulder. Bulldogs winger Denny Kearney then snapped a rocket that rang like 1 o’clock in Harkness Tower, a screaming clang off Carroll’s right post.

A penalty to Ryan Donald slowed the Bulldogs with 14 minutes on the clock, as Harvard used the power play to regroup and test Yale’s aggressive defense. The pace ebbed slightly, as the Crimson began to test Blase more consistently than they had in the first half of the contest.

Harvard missed a great two-on-one chance with 9:15 on the clock, as Sam Bozoian picked a loose puck off Bulldogs defender Jimmy Martin’s stick at the blue line and dished a late cross-crease feed to Louis Leblanc. The Montreal-bred freshman couldn’t tip it home, but did draw the penalty as Andrew Miller was forced to haul him down from behind.

Harvard finally solved Blase on the power play, as Huxley snapped a shot from the high slot past the goalie’s glove at 12:12 of the period.

The second period concluded with some fistic festivities, as both camps amped up the intensity with some big hits and fly-bys on the goalkeepers. The scoreboard stuck to its 2-1 declaration heading into the final frame, despite Harvard’s 11-8 edge in second-period shots.

The refreshed Crimson pulled even right away, as Killorn beat Blase on a one-man rush down the left-wing slot. With the defense mostly concerned about protecting the center of the ice in the four-on-four action, the second-year right wing flipped a low shot far-side on the goalkeeper, who let it slip under his glove for the equalizer.

Harvard nearly wrested a once-unlikely lead two minutes later while short-handed, as freshman Alex Fallstrom whiffed on a hopping rebound of a Rence Coassin blast. The counter-attack was not favorable to the Crimson however, as Martin fed Mason for a 3-2 Yale lead.

Consecutive penalties to Alex Biega and Huxley only 11 seconds apart put Harvard in a deep hole, as Dignard slammed the Bulldogs’ fourth goal home only 22 ticks later. Yale ultimately slammed the door on their arch-rivals from Cambridge six minutes later when Little danced through the Crimson rearguard and flipped a delicate back-hander over Carroll’s glove.

“It was a poor penalty that got us to five-on-four” Donato mused. “Now, you’re going to end up in some situations where you have to take penalties, but the first penalty, certainly we didn’t have to take it, and it hurt us.”

Harvard got one back with 8:32 on the clock as Grimshaw’s wacky bomb eluded Blase, rebounding off the back wall before being fed back into the net by Blase’s own skate. Donato elected to lift Carroll for a power-play-created six-on-four with 1:30 left, but the long-shot tactic ended up in the back of Harvard’s net instead by way of Backman’s stick.

Harvard returns to action on Monday evening against Northeastern in the Beanpot Consolation game, while Yale takes to the road to play at Colgate next Friday.

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