Feb. 28, 2009

Courtesy of Yale

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Things worked out perfectly for the Yale men's hockey team tonight both in New Haven and in Hanover, and the Elis added another trophy to their list of 2008-09 accomplishments. Brian O'Neill had two goals and Mark Arcobello had a goal and three assists as the No. 11 Bulldogs beat No. 10 Cornell 4-2 before a sellout crowd to clinch an outright regular season ECAC Hockey championship.

Yale's win combined with Princeton's 2-0 loss at Dartmouth put the Blue four points up on the second-place Tigers with one game left in the regular season.

The Bulldogs (20-6-2, 15-4-2 ECAC), who earned their first regular season title since 1997-98, got all four goals from the Arcobello, O'Neill, Sean Backman line. They were able to solve Big Red goalie Ben Scrivens (25 saves), who entered the night with the nation's top save percentage.

Alec Richards stopped 29 of 31 shots and kept Cornell off the board for eight of 10 man advantages to earn one of his greatest collegiate victories in net.

Cornell (17-7-4, 12-6-3), which had a 57-25 advantage on faceoffs, had a 31-29 edge in shots and nearly pulled off a big comeback with two late goals.

The Bulldogs (14-11 shots in the first), who were buzzing early in the offensive end, had many grade-A chances and nearly scored on their first man-advantage. Scrivens needed a few impressive stops to keep the game scoreless.

"Our intensity went up even more tonight because we lost last weekend," said Arcobello, who enjoyed his biggest point night of the year.

Ironically, Yale cashed in on Cornell's first power play. Big Red defenseman Mike Devin one-timed a crossing feed at the point that Arcobello got his body on before the Eli forward grabbed the loose puck and saw Backman racing up the middle of the ice. Scrivens perfectly anticipated Arcobello's lead pass and got to the puck before the speedy Bulldog winger, but the Big Red goalie got caught well out of the crease. Scrivens failed to clear the puck. It bounced around for a second before Backman (15th goal) snared it, turned toward the net and slid a wrister through a defender's legs into an empty net at 11:56 for Yale's seventh shorthanded goal of the year.

"He [Scrivens] put it [puck] right into my pants," said Backman, who had a goal (15th) and an assist. "It just put it between the d-man's legs."

The Yale power play, which notched its second to make it 2-0, enjoyed its best night since a four-goal outburst on Feb. 6 at home against Harvard, while the penalty kill knocked off all four Big Red chances in the second and allowed just six shots on goal in the process.

"Our penalty kill was fantastic and probably made the difference tonight," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. "Cornell has a great team that plays with a lot of poise and patience. But we weathered the storm."

O'Neill found a rebound off an Arcobello shot and smacked it home with 11:59 left in the second.

Arcobello, who got his sixth game-winner of the year, cashed in on a 5-on-3 with 1:13 left in the middle frame to go up three. After a Bulldog timeout, Mike Matczak sent the puck low to Denny Kearney on the right. Kearney quickly rifled it over to Arcobello on the left who one-timed the puck into an empty side. Scrivens never had a chance with the crisp crossing feed.

Yale seemed like it was killing off penalties all night, though the Elis only had to kill two more than the visitors. The Big Red's seventh power-play chance brought them their first goal. Colin Greening one-timed a low shot through traffic in the low slot 3:28 into the third to make it 3-1.

The Bulldogs had to kill off a few more before the Red pulled Scrivens for an extra skater and a 6-on-4 advantage that worked like a charm. Evan Barlow's slap shot from the top of the right circle went stick side on Richards at 17:43 to cut the lead to 3-2.

Scrivens went in and out numerous times over the last few minutes and Cornell tried desperately to put pucks on Richards, who finished the third period with nine saves. However, O'Neill put the finishing touches on the game by putting back a rebound with 45 seconds left that sent the 3,500 at Ingalls into a frenzy.

"It [Ingalls] was cranking pretty good back when I played here. It was good to hear it again," said Allain, a former Bulldog goalie.

The Elis, who complete the regular season Sunday with Colgate, waited patiently to hear the final score from Hanover before the locker room erupted in celebration. ECAC Hockey Commissioner Steve Hagwell was in the locker room to present the Cleary Cup to the Elis, and captain Matt Nelson took the hardware feed.

Sunday's game is crucial for Yale in the Pairwise Rankings as teams jostle for NCAA at large consideration.

Notes: The Bulldogs were wearing black and pink jerseys and socks as part of the Pink at the Rink fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Those jeresey can be purchased by clicking on Pink at the Rink on ecachockey.com. Cornell wore its home whites... A limited number of tickets are still available for the 4 pm Sunday game with Colgate and will go on sale game day at 2:30 at Ingalls Rink.