Yale captures ECAC Championship
Rondeau shutout in 6-0 win over Cornell
The nation's top scoring team picked an opportune night to unleash its fury. The Yale men, behind two goals from Kevin Limbert and Ryan Rondeau's 22 saves, captured the 2011 ECAC Hockey Tournament Championship by beating Cornell 6-0 at Boardwalk Hall.
The Bulldogs (27-6-1), who have won four straight games including the last three in shutouts, may have secured the overall top seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament field by taking their second ECAC Tournament title in three seasons. The national tournament field is announced tomorrow morning at 11:30.
Yale, averaging 4.25 goals, passed that mark in the first 40 minutes after hitting the net four times in the middle frame. There were six goals before the Elis reached the 20-shot mark and the tournament's top seed finished with a 33-22 advantage.
Antoine Laganiere, Chris Cahill, Colin Dueck and Broc Little also scored goals while Denny Kearney had three assists. Jimmy Martin, Brian O'Neill and Andrew Miller each had two helpers and made the all-tournament team along with Cahill and Rondeau.
"We played an outstanding game tonight. Our power play was clicking and allowed us to get an early lead, but I was most pleased with how sound our defensive effort was," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey.
No Eli goalie has ever had three consecutive shutouts at any point in a season. Rondeau, who has three straight post-season shutouts and a school-record six this winter, earned tournament MVP honors by stopping all 44 shots he faced over two nights. The Yale senior, who was left off every All-ECAC and All-Ivy League team, stopped all four Cornell advantages.
"Ryan [Rondeau] was a steady and calming presence, which really helps us play with more confidence," said Martin.
The Bulldogs jumped all over their two power plays in the opening frame to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Limbert, Kearney and Martin combined on both tallies.
When Keir Ross went to the box for hooking at 2:46, Yale's special teams were ready to fire on freshman Andy Iles (10 saves, 28 minutes), who was not in net during the Red's 4-0 shutout of Dartmouth last night. Kearney, moving over the blueline, took a pass from Martin and then dumped it for his center. Limbert's snap shot from the high slot went low stick side on Iles at 3:03.
"Our offense was clicking, but we knew we needed to stay focused on defense," said Kearney. "Any play could be the one to get them back in the game."
The next tally for Limbert, who now has 10 goals this season, came on a re-direction of a Martin slap shot from the point. The junior was uncovered in the middle of the slot and put his stick down as the captain's blast was about to pass him. The puck jumped over the Big Red goalie's stick at 15:50.
That put the finishing touches on a first period that had Yale outshooting Cornell 10-7 and included many Bulldog grade-A scoring chances. Iles came up with a few great saves, but Rondeau was even better at the other end. The Eli goalie stopped Greg Miller on the edge of the crease midway through the period on the Red's best opportunity.
The middle frame began the way the first period ended with Yale's speed and tenacious forecheck creating quality chances. O'Neill, who had just hit the pipe on a mini-breakaway in the second minute of the period, did almost all the work to give the Blue a three-goal lead 99 seconds in. He beat two Cornell players out of the corner and raced out to see Laganiere heading for the low slot. O'Neill's pass hit the sophomore in stride and the 6-foot-4 forward snapped off a nasty wrister over Iles' shoulder.
O'Neill was at it again a few minutes later when he grabbed the puck behind the net and hit Cahill moving toward the cage. Cahill rifled a snap shot in from the middle slot for his 15th of the year six minutes into the second to make it 4-0.
Colin Dueck's first collegiate goal will be one he'll remember forever. Miller, who outraced the defense to wave off an icing, went around the boards and into the right circle before sending it over to the sophomore blueliner. Dueck unleashed a long slap shot from the point that beat Iles low and sent the rookie netminder to the bench in favor of Mike Garman.
The Blue took advantage of a boarding major to notch its final tally and notch its third power-play tally near the end of the second. Kearney, in hot pursuit behind the net, took the puck away from a defender trying to work with his new goalie. The mix-up enabled Kearney to take it away from the stunned Cornell players and send a perfect lead feed to Little in the slot. The senior forward, looking for his 18th of the year, held before flicking it over Garman at 17:28.
"This group is so special because they can focus on a goal and they understand what it takes to achieve it," said Allain. "They keep each other in line and the senior leadership takes over."
The Bulldogs will land at Bridgeport's NCAA East Regional next Friday. While the Yale players, coaches and staff enjoyed the celebration on the ice and in the locker room, you could tell they were already thinking about the ultimate goal.
"Things didn't work out for us in the national tournament last year," said Allain after being asked about the team's t-shirts that have "unfinished business" on the back. "They are determined to get to the Frozen Four and hopefully win the thing."