The Yale Bulldogs have been boosted and belittled since August. Pundits and punters alike have bestowed reverence and ridicule, loving or loathing the team for its gaudy success in an oft-marginalized league.
Call them flash-sans-substance. Call them juggernauts. Call them paper tigers, call them world-beaters. Call them what you will, but everyone will have to call them champions now.
The Elis rode a lethal power play and a dominant first period to a 6-0 romp over Cornell in the ECAC Hockey title game, claiming their second crown in three seasons while denying the upstart Big Red a second consecutive championship. Junior Kevin Limbert scored two power-play goals in the first period, sophomores Antoine Laganiere and Colin Dueck added goals, as did seniors Chris Cahill and Broc Little.
“I thought our guys played an outstanding game tonight,” praised victorious coach Keith Allain. “Our power play was really clicking, which allowed us to get ahead, but to me, what I was most pleased about was how sound we were defensively.”
[photoshelter-gallery g_id=’G0000mQEppJewFaA’ g_name=’20110319-Yale-Cornell-Szwast’ f_show_caption=’t’ f_show_slidenum=’t’ img_title=’casc’ pho_credit=’iptc’ f_link=’t’ f_bbar=’t’ fsvis=’f’ width=’500′ height=’375′ bgcolor=’#AAAAAA’ bgtrans=’t’ btype=’old’ bcolor=’#CCCCCC’ crop=’f’ trans=’xfade’ tbs=’4000′ f_ap=’t’ linkdest=’c’ f_fullscreen=’f’ f_constrain=’f’ twoup=’f’ f_topbar=’f’ f_bbarbig=” f_htmllinks=’f’ f_enable_embed_btn=’f’ f_show_watermark=’f’ f_send_to_friend_btn=’f’ f_smooth=’f’ f_mtrx=’f’ f_up=’f’ target=’_self’ wmds=’llQ6QNgpeC.p1Ucz7U.Y4gJxptcenONkIVOh4vwgKyruuDmlF2pya088s0GBPOOmBi3R1A–‘ ]Senior goaltender and tournament Most Outstanding Player Ryan Rondeau earned his third straight shutout – his sixth of the season – with 22 saves.
“The team played really well in front of me,” deferred the red-hot netminder. “Obviously, the goal support is really nice in a game like that. The ‘D’ kept a lot of the shots to the outside and gave me clear lanes to see the puck. We’ve done a really good job limiting the amount of shots we give up in the last couple games.”
Cornell coach Mike Schafer said all week that his Big Red were embarrassed in their regular-season finale at Yale, a deceptively lopsided 4-1 affair. Undisciplined, easily rattled and utterly uncoordinated, Cornell was run around all night long in New Haven. Unfortunately for Schafer and his Ithacan icers, Saturday bore a whole new brand of mortification at the hands of their Ivy foes.
“They were very obviously the better team tonight,” said Schafer. “They did a tremendous job of executing offensively. For us, it’s a bitter end to a good ride throughout the course of the season. I told the guys, sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t, and we came out and didn’t play the kind of hockey we needed to to be a championship team, and I thought Yale definitely did.”
Yale busted out of the gate, taking six of the game’s first seven shots and converting the energy into something more tangible just 3:03 into the game. During an early power play, Broc Little dished a short lateral pass to Limbert in the mid-slot, who pounded the bang-bang one-timer through Iles’ pads.
Bulldogs Laganiere and Charles Brockett took consecutive minors in the middle of the period, sapping some of Yale’s momentum, but Rondeau and the Blue defense denied the Big Red satisfaction on any of their three first-period power plays.
Martin unloaded a cannon with one second remaining on a Mike Devin minor, and Limbert’s subtle tip in front eluded Iles in the game’s 16th minute. The goal doubled Cornell’s deficit and forced the Ithacans to open up their game, an adjustment Schafer was loathe to make.
“Everything was a problem today,” said Schafer. “We were down 2-0 before we could turn around. Yale’s definitely a team you don’t want to be behind.”
The Bulldogs outshot the Big Red by a slim 10-7 margin in the first period, but that figure failed to represent how dominant Yale had really been.
“We preached focus,” said Yale captain Jimmy Martin of the team’s mindset after the period. “Once you get up one or two, you’ve got to keep focused, especially against a team like Cornell.”
Laganiere put the Big Red in a deep hole less than two minutes into the second frame, beating Iles only moments after teammate Brian O’Neill rocked the goalie’s post with a fusillade from 30 feet out. Laganiere proceeded to take a clear tripping minor in the neutral zone a minute after his goal, but the Blue penalty kill did its job for the fourth time in frustrating desperate Cornell.
The Bulldogs dug their heels deep into Cornell’s windpipe two minutes later when Cahill deposited an O’Neill pass into Iles’ twine, and Dueck effectively ended Cornell’s season with his first goal of the season at 8:37 of the frame. The long slap shot chased Iles from the match after five goals and 15 shots.
Senior defender Ken Trentowski took a brutal hit from junior Jordan Kary in the defensive corner with 4:35 to play in the second, and spent a few moments on the ice in obvious pain. He ultimately skated off under his own power, but not before Kary was shown the gate and the Elis set up for a five-minute power play.
Little exacted revenge with his blade, sniping Garman’s glove-side corner with 2:32 on the clock and 2:58 left in the major penalty. When the horn mercifully ended 40 minutes of play, Yale had been credited with only 19 shots to Cornell’s 14, yet held a 6-0 lead on the scoreboard.
“I think what makes this team so special is there’s not so much of me keeping them in line,” said Allain. “They’re focused on a goal, they understand what it takes to achieve that goal, and they keep each other in line. I just nudge ’em a little bit, and the senior leadership really takes over.”
The final frame looked no different than the first two, as Yale blasted 14 shots Garman’s way to Cornell’s eight shots-on-goal, but neither team lit the lamp before the final buzzer.
Cornell’s season ends after a strong second half surge that lifted the Big Red from 11th to fourth in the standings. Yale advances to the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn., where the Bulldogs will likely open against Air Force — which gave Yale its first loss of the season – in the NCAA tournament on Friday afternoon.
“This group is determined to get to the Frozen Four, and hopefully win the thing,” Allain said.