Ryan Rondeau stopped 29 of 31 shots against the nation’s top-scoring team as Yale took a 3-2 win over No. 11 Air Force before 2,429 at Ingalls Rink.
Yale (9-4), which won two of three against ranked teams at Ingalls over the last six days, outshot Air Force (15-4-1) by five (36-31) and erased an early deficit to snatch its fifth victory in seven games.
Rondeau, a sophomore netminder who now has three wins in four outings, beat a ranked team for the second time this year. This one came against a 2008 NCAA participant that was averaging better than four goals.
The Bulldogs’ power-play unit was another key element with two goals in six attempts. And it wasn’t easy facing Andrew Volkening (33 saves), whose 1.63 goals against average heading into Sunday was sixth-best in Division I. Brian O’Neill, Sean Backman and Denny Kearney hit the net for the Blue.
The Bulldogs, playing their last non-league game of the year, had the first-period edge in shots, 11-9, but the Falcons tallied the only goal.
Brent Olson dug the puck out of the corner in the Yale end and got it out to defenseman Michael Mayra, who quickly fired a shot that hit a teammate. The puck came to Jacques Lamoureux, who tucked a low backhand shot inside the right post as he was falling to the ice at 11:34 for his 16th goal of the year.
Rondeau and the Bulldog defense didn’t have as much work in the second with the home team putting 15 shots on Volkening compared to four at the Air Force end. However, there was a scare for Yale before the Blue evened the score. Yale blueliner Ryan Donald jumped in front of an empty net to block a Lamoureux shot midway through that would have given USAF a 2-0 advantage.
“They are fast and deep,” said Yale head coach Keith Allain to the Falcons. “It’s a big win for us against a quality opponent.”
Instead of the Elis going down a pair, another Yale defenseman looking for his first goal of the year set up a goal after an Air Force penalty.
O’Neill, a freshman winger, was crosschecked by senior Air Force defenseman Greg Flynn just outside the Falcons’ net with the home team looking at an open side to shoot at. A Yale shot whizzed off the crossbar a moment after O’Neill went down hard in the slot. Flynn received a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct.
The Elis took advantage of the opportunity with a tally 69 seconds into the power play. Mike Matczak took a back pass from Jeff Anderson after he crossed the blueline and wristed a low shot that bounced off O’Neill (his third goal) on the edge of the crease that went past Volkening’s glove at 18:00.
Air Force survived the rest of the long advantage, but the Bulldogs still got the go-ahead goal at 4:11 of the third. Backman, who has a team-high 10 goals, got a loose puck in the low slot and whacked it through the Air Force goalie’s legs.
The Falcons used their only man-advantage goal of the night to even things at 2-2. Lamoureux (his 17th goal) converted a pretty crossing feed to the right circle by snapping off a quick shot past Rondeau at 9:28.
The score remained tied for almost four more minutes. That’s when Kearney, a sophomore forward, banged home is first game-winner of the season and second of his career. He took a pass from behind the net off the stick of Nick Jaskowiak and flipped it between Volkening’s legs at 13:22 with Yale on the man-advantage.
“I was just trying to get the shot off quickly,” said Kearney, who heads home to Hanover, N.H., this Friday to face No. 20 Dartmouth. “The shot just trickled off my stick and went past the goalie’s glove.”
Rondeau lost his stick at one point with under a minute to play while AFA had an extra skater with Volkening on the bench. The Bulldog netminder, who made 17 saves in the third, came up with a grade-A stops on numerous occasions in the third period to save the win.
“Ryan [Rondeau] had a solid performance. He is very calm out there,” said Allain.