ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It shouldn’t have gone like this.
For much of the game, 12th-seeded Colgate kept it close against second-seeded Yale in the opening game of the ECAC Hockey Championship Friday evening at Boardwalk Hall.
But then again, as the first No. 12 seed to reach the league’s championship weekend in the 50-year history of the ECAC, little has gone according to plan for the Raiders in the playoffs.
After sweeping through the first two weekends, knocking off fifth-seeded Rensselaer and top seeded Union, Colgate’s luck finally ran out in a 4-0 loss to Yale.
“Colgate’s a tough opponent,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “Clearly, they were the league’s hottest team entering this weekend and I thought they gave us everything they could handle.”
With the game still in the balance, the Bulldogs seemed to be daring Colgate to jump ahead, giving them a combined four power plays in the opening two periods. But the Raiders were denied each time and finished 0-for-6 overall while on the man advantage.
“I think we moved the puck well but I thought we could have shot it a little more,” Raiders forward Brian Day said. “It was tough getting used to those boards; it was kind of a small area back there, so there wasn’t a lot of room to work with. But it would have been nice to pop one of those for a power-play goal and turn it around.”
What few shots Colgate was able to get through were turned away by Yale’s Ryan Rondeau, who made 22 saves on the night.
“He’s been great all year,” Yale blueliner Jimmy Martin said. “Tonight, specifically, [it was close] and he made a few huge saves. It just keeps you going and keeps you in there.”
Yale broke the deadlock at 5:07 in the second period off an offensive draw win by Andrew Miller. The sophomore pushed the puck back to Chris Cahill, who lofted a wrister through a maze of bodies and into the back of the net past Colgate freshman Eric Mihalik.
Cahill’s score came after Thomas Larkin’s goal was waved off 18 seconds into the period after the officials determined the Colgate defender had kicked the puck in after collecting a bad bounce off Yale’s Colin Dueck near the crease.
The Bulldogs added to their lead at 6:42 in the third when Kenny Agostino squeezed a rebound of Miller’s initial shot past Mihalik from down low near the right post.
“I think that gave us some separation,” Allain said. “It was tough for them to come back after that.”
Yale capped the game at 14:49 of the final period when Brian O’Neill flicked a pass from the left wing past a diving Colgate defender and straight to Miller in the slot, who beat Mihalik one-on-one to make it 3-0.
The Bulldogs started strong in the early going of the first period, churning out a bevy of scoring chances, including a shot by Laganiere that clipped the pipe and fell into the crease before a frantic Mihalik was able to cover the puck from a crashing Yale player.
Cahill turned in another golden scoring chance toward the end of Yale’s first power play early on, but his redirect of the initial shot went wide of the open post.
Yale used its speed through the game to limit Colgate’s time on the offensive attack, transitioning from its zone down the ice quickly.
“I think we could have been better,” Raiders coach Don Vaughan said of Colgate’s puck possession. “But you have to give credit to Yale; they’re on it quickly. We tried to chip it in and get it into the corners but we had some tough passes being rushed because of the pressure they were putting on us.”
Laganiere added an empty-netter at 19:45, while Mihalik stopped 36 of 39 shots for the Raiders.
Yale (26-6-1) will face the winner of the Dartmouth-Cornell game at 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, while Colgate (11-27-3) will take on the loser at 4:30.