PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A great opportunity to knock off the nation’s top ranked team and end its 15-game unbeaten streak slipped through the paws of the Bulldogs in a 4-3 loss to Providence, the defending national champions, before a packed Schneider Arena.
The Friars erased a one-goal deficit in the third with a pair of tallies to take a hard-fought contest between ECAC Hockey and Hockey East schools that had not met in 17 years.
“We played a very good hockey team, and they played well tonight,” said Keith Allain ’80, Yale’s Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach, of the Friars (9-0-3) in the post-game press conference.
The visitors had a 12-8 advantage in shots, but were down two quick goals against a hot team with a big crowd making noise for it.
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The Bulldogs (5-2-2) clawed back with hard work and determination.
Carson Cooper helped the Blue cut the lead in half late in the opening period. The senior forward took the puck off of a PC defenseman’s stick and immediately sent it out to the high slot for classmate Cody Learned, who one-timed it over Nick Ellis’ shoulder with 1:53 left.
Alex Lyon, who had 27 saves, had to come up with a huge stop with one second on the clock in the first to keep the 2-1 score heading into intermission. He absorbed a Jake Walman one-timer blast from the point on a man-advantage.
The Blue could not capitalize on two first-period power plays but more than made up for it with special teams play in the second. Yale had already come out buzzing with six of the first seven shots on target coming off its sticks. Shortly after Eli freshman Joe Snively was hit from behind along the PC blueline to draw a major penalty midway through the period.
Two power-play tallies later and it’s a different game. First, Ryan Hitchcock one-timed a pretty Mitch Witek crossing feed at 8:33 to tie the game. The sophomore left wing was between the circle and the crease with his stick up waiting for the pass. He whizzed it past the Friar goalie for his fourth of the year.
Almost three minutes later, still on the same advantage, Stu Wilson gathered in a feed from Frankie DiChiara and beat Ellis from the off angle. Wilson got the pass at the goal line extended, moved out one stride on the right side and snapped off a low shot that must have caromed off Ellis before landing in the net.
“Our power play has been pretty good this year, and we took advantage,” Allain said.
Then it was time for Providence to put a flurry of shots on the Bulldog net. The Friars, who got four or five in a row in one sequence, ended up with an 11-10 edge in the middle frame. Lyon was on his game and stopped them all.
The wild second period ended with numerous blue jerseys colliding with white ones after the buzzer. The guys with the striped shirts had to step in for some separation before they handed out matching penalties.
That may have fired up the Friar offense in the third. After Lyon stopped a pair of great scoring chances, the home team put up two quickies to grab a one-goal lead again.
Yale stuck to its game and did everything it took to get equal again… except find the net. Lyon made huge saves and came out of the crease a few times to thwart chances. The Eli fore-check put the pressure on the Friars and created Yale chances.
However, a late Bulldog penalty pretty much ended the hopes for a win. Still, Hitchcock created an excellent shorthanded backhander opportunity that was saved.
When Yale finally killed off the penalty, the Blue put two or three quality shots on the PC net, including one that hit the pipe and another that hit a defender and nearly fluttered inside the left post. Witek and Rob O’Gara had the shots from the point, but there was no Yale luck on bounces tonight.
“I thought they were the better team on the ice tonight and that we have a lot of work to do,” Allain said.