The Crimson topped Yale 10-0 on the gridiron last fall. In the shadow of Harvard Stadium where that 125th edition of “The Game” had taken place, the Bulldog icers tried to even the score all on their own.
Playing in front of a season-high 2,891, there to commemorate Harvard’s national championship 20 years ago, Yale gave the crowd little to celebrate in dismantling the struggling Crimson 6-2. Winger Brian O’Neill scored twice for the Bulldogs, Mark Arcobello had a goal and an assist, and Patrick Brosnihan, Jeff Anderson and Tom Dignard also lit the lamp for the visitors. Denny Kearney, Sean Backman and Brendan Mason notched two assists apiece, and junior Billy Blase stoned Harvard on 32 of its 34 shots.
Senior captain Jimmy Fraser scored twice for the Crimson, who are mired in a 12-game winless depression. Freshman Matt Hoyle made 17 saves in absorbing the loss; backup John Riley stopped 15 in 24 minutes of mop-up action.
“They came out a lot faster, a lot more determined than us,” said Crimson coach and the 1989 national championship’s Most Outstanding Player Ted Donato.
Anderson opened the festivities 1:47 into the contest, redistributing Mason’s pass into the top corner of Hoyle’s net despite a two-man protective detail. Four minutes later, defenseman Kevin Peel zipped a visionary 100-foot feed from his own corner to a full-stride O’Neill at the Harvard blue line. The rookie winger split the defensemen and popped a wrist shot over Hoyle’s right shoulder for the 2-0 lead.
“We knew they were a good team, a fast team,” said Donato. “Guys were getting behind us; you give up a couple of goals in the first five minutes [to Yale], and it’s not much of a hockey game.”
Sophomore Kearney danced up the left side of Hoyle’s crease nine minutes in and inadvertently served up a perfect pitch to first-line center Brosnihan with a soft, vertical backhand. The senior Brosnihan fungoed it out of mid-air and over the shoulder of the kneeling goalkeeper.
The sides traded minors over the remainder of the period, but Yale’s field goal stood alone at the first intermission. The Eli put 16 shots Hoyle’s way in the opening frame to Harvard’s 13.
The Crimson recovered some ground early in the second, as Fraser planted Nick Coskren’s end-board feed firmly into Blase’s top shelf five minutes in.
“I thought we came out pretty strong early, but Harvard didn’t go away; they pressed us in the second,” said Yale coach Keith Allain.
Yale reestablished the three-goal cushion on a power play however, when Dignard drove the puck over two Harvard sticks and another defender’s leg from atop the right-wing circle. Hoyle was frozen by a back-door threat and the probability of a deflection, and couldn’t react in time to stop the far-side dagger.
“The power-play goal that made it 4-1 quieted things down a bit,” Allain posited.
The Eli scored again with just under five minutes to go in the frame when sniper Arcobello picked the defense’s pocket and beat Hoyle from low in the left-wing circle. The strike chased the freshman netminder from the game; he was replaced by the third-year Riley.
“For all the talent Yale has, the majority of their goals started off with us having the puck,” recalled the bemused Donato.
Yale won on the shot board again as well, registering 13 shots. Harvard finished the second with eight, and took the stanza’s only penalty.
Riley made an abbreviated case for more minutes in his appearance, stopping the first 15 shots he faced. Among them was a cross-slot one-timer by captain Matt Nelson, intercepted on its way to glory by the belly-flopping goalie.
O’Neill ruined Riley’s shutout the same way he did Hoyle’s, at 15:56 of the third. Sweeping down the left slot with Arcobello in a hard-charging two-on-two, Arcobello fed O’Neill from the outside in and the feisty frosh tipped it past Riley.
The teams got chippy with each other as time ticked down, with multiple scuffles interrupting the play. Harvard got one back with 1:04 to play as Rolecek whipped a wrister by Blase’s glove, but it was too little, too late for the hosts. Yale finished the game with 38 shots, Harvard with 34.
“[Blase] was very solid,” praised his coach. “They didn’t score on their chances, and we scored on ours.”
The Crimson hadn’t lost a league game at home in nearly a year, having last been bested at Bright by Clarkson on January 12 of last year. Their current winless streak dates back to mid-November, and they now have a two-week exam break before taking on Dartmouth on Jan. 25. Yale hosts North Country foes Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend with a confident breeze at its back.