Courtesy of Yale Sports Publicity
PRINCETON, N.J. – There have been a number of memorable come-from-behind wins over the last three 20-plus win Yale seasons, but few have been this late in the year or this significant. The No. 3 Bulldogs erased a 3-0 deficit and Chris Cahill hit the net with 1:53 left in the third period on the way to a 5-4 win over Princeton before a Hobey Baker Rink sellout crowd.
Andrew Miller had a goal and three assists and Brian O'Neill hit the net with one helper as Yale (22-5, 16-4 ECAC) won its third straight game despite being outshot 40-32. The victory enabled the Blue to stay within a point of first-place Union with one weekend left.
For the second straight game, the Eli special teams were clicking. After scoring a pair of shorthanded goals in a Friday night win, Yale got two power-play tallies and two more on the penalty-kill to ignite the comeback.
Ryan Rondeau, who had a season-high 36 saves, didn't have his best game in the Yale net today, but he made enough quality stops to deserve equal credit for the victory. He prevented scores on four of five advantages as the Elis were outshot for just the third time this winter.
The Blue passed the puck and moved their feet as well as any game this season. Alan Reynolds (27 saves), a senior starting his last regular season home game for Princeton (15-10-2, 10-8-2), stopped more grade-A Yale scoring chances than any opponent this season.
Charles Brockett and Kenny Agostino were the other goal scorers for the visitors, whose memorable comebacks include a 4-1 deficit at Baker Rink last February that turned into a 7-4 Yale win.
"It was a really gutsy effort from our guys. They just stuck with it and stuck with it," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Men's Ice Hockey. "We never felt like they had all the momentum. It was a great win for us this time of year."
Things looked good for Yale off the opening faceoff with Bulldogs blocking the first two Princeton shots and Rondeau making a top-notch save while the visitors buzzed the offensive end.
If the Elis felt like they had any momentum in the early going, giving up three straight goals on rebounds around the Bulldog net should have taken all the wind out of the Blue sails.
Rob Kleebaum banged one home at 5:47, Alec Rush got his first of the year at 10:57 and Mike Kramer used a power play (and a bad bounce off the boards) to snatch a rebound in the low slot and put it back at 13:38.
Despite being down 3-0 on the road, outshot 16-11 and having trouble staying out of the penalty box, the wind was still blowing from New Haven and the Elis kept moving their legs to scratch away at the Tiger lead.
Miller, who has a career-best eight goals this season, got the Yale run started on the penalty kill. Nick Jaskowiak stole the puck near center ice by poking it away. Miller took off with it and beat a Princeton defender to the left circle before unleashing a low wrister inside the far post at 14:24 to make it 3-1.
The Bulldogs proceeded to take another penalty, and this time it was Brockett's turn to use a kill for offense. The junior forward, who has all three career goals this season, grabbed a feed from Mike Matczak and raced from the Yale blueline to the mid slot. Brockett, with a delayed penalty called on the Princeton player trying to stop him, wristed a low shot inside the right post at 17:49.
Exactly two minutes later, the Elis used their first power play to get even. Miller carried over the Princeton blueline and slipped it across to Jimmy Martin. The Yale captain took a stride or two and then hit O'Neill, who was moving through the right circle. O'Neill, who leads the team with 17 goals, held for a moment and then snuck a low shot past Reynolds with 11 seconds left in the first. It was the third Yale goal over a span of 5:25.
"We started getting our feet moving," said O'Neill. "When we are moving the puck like that, you're going to get some chances."
The offense was the show in the first period, but the goalies stole it back in the middle frame. The two senior netminders stopped more than a half dozen grade-A chances each in a wild 20 minutes of end-to-end action that had Princeton with a 12-8 shot advantage.
The Tigers used an excellent fore-check sequence to grab the lead again early in the second. Just after killing off an advantage, the Blue could not get the puck out of their zone. Kleebaum was camped on the left post and had an easy one-timer into an open side of the net after a perfect feed from the point.
Yale cashed in its only man-advantage of the second for another equalizer. Rondeau, after a Princeton clear, caught the Tigers on a line change and quickly fired the puck up to Miller. The sophomore forward skated to the left circle and hit Agostino (10th goal) with a pretty feed. The freshman, playing in his home state for the first time as a collegian, snapped off a low shot that zipped inside the far post at 15:02.
The third period had all the action and the defense of the middle frame. There were huge saves and near misses at both ends.
Brendan Mason and Antoine Laganiere thought they had manufactured the go-ahead goal with 5:50 left, but the tally was taken off the board after a video review. Mason worked the puck from behind the net and then had to poke it away from Reynolds where Laganiere knocked it into the net. The referees signaled it was a goal but took it away because they felt the Yale sophomore had intentionally kicked it in.
"We were getting so many chances, and we were making plays," said Miller, who leads the Blue with 27 assists and 35 points (tied with O'Neill). "We were very confident and on our toes in the third period. We were confident we could make more plays."
The Elis never looked stung by the surprising decision. They continued to put pressure on the Princeton end and it paid dividends with just under two minutes to play. O'Neill won the puck and passed to Miller along the boards behind the goal line. Miller sent it to the middle slot for Cahill, who turned and fired.
"The defense came to me and I shot it low on the stick side," said Cahill, who now has 12 goals this year. "It was a blind shot for me, but coach was encouraging us to shoot low on the stick side."
The Cahill-Miller-O'Neill line accounted for five goals and seven points today and helped the Elis sweep the Tigers this season.
"This was the best game they've had in a long time," said Allain of that line. "As a result, we tried to get them on the ice every other shift in the third."
BULLDOG BITES: It's impossible to figure it out, but it is unlikely that Yale has ever scored 4 shorthanded goals in a weekend… The Bulldogs earned their third straight Ivy League Championship after Dartmouth (13 points) lost its final Ivy contest to Cornell last night. Yale is 8-1 with 16 points and one game left… The only change from Friday's Yale lineup was Gus Young in for Colin Dueck on defense… New Jersey natives Mike Matczak (Sewell) and Kenny Agostino (Flanders) played before plenty of family and friends at Baker Rink. Matczak was the skate-off interview for the second intermission on the ESPNU broadcast… 1 p.m. start times are hard to find on anyone's college hockey schedule. We couldn't remember the last time the Bulldogs played a game that early in the day.