Backman, Little Score Twice
HAMILTON, N.Y. - Sean Backman and Broc Little had two goals each as the No. 6 Yale men's hockey team raced past Colgate 6-3 at Starr Rink before 1,238 to remain in a three-way ECAC Hockey first-place tie.
The Elis (15-6-3, 11-4-2 ECAC), who scored twice on seven man-advantages, now have 24 points along with Cornell and Union, both winners tonight. Yale outshot Colgate 39-26 and got a goal and three assists from Andrew Miller and three (1-2) points from Brian O'Neill to win for the third straight time.
Billy Blase stopped 23 of 26 shots to earn his fourth victory of the year in his first road start of 2009-10. He had nine saves in each of the first two periods. Alex Evin had 16 stops in the third period and finished with 33 for the home team.
The Raiders (11-12-5, 8-7-1) were 1-for-4 on the power play and had two goals from Francois Brisebois.
"Special teams played a huge role tonight, especially the penalty kill," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. "Our creativity on offense was very good. Six is a lot of goals, but we really had a lot of great plays and could have had more."
The Bulldogs popped the net first on its initial power-play chance early on. Miller found a rebound off an O'Neill shot near the edge of the right circle and calmly flicked a backhander under the crossbar for his fourth goal of the year at 3:53.
Yale upped the lead to 2-0 almost six minutes later because of a top-notch feed by Backman. The senior forward, with the puck on his backhand near center ice, hit O'Neill (10th goal) with a perfect lead pass. Yale's sophomore winger, with a defenseman drafting off him, shielded the puck as he went to the crease and tucked it five-hole on Evin.
"Our line played really well tonight," said Backman. "We haven't been together that long. I'm still trying to feel out Andrew Miller a little. Tonight was one of those nights when we were on the same page."
Brisebois (11th) and the Raiders took advantage of what would have been their first power play with a goal on a delayed penalty. Brisbebois, a junior winger, skated into the high slot and sent a slapshot past Blase at 15:59 to cut the margin in half.
The Elis, who had a 14-10 shots advantage, kept putting the pressure on Evin by cycling the puck and winning the battles for loose biscuits. That hustle caused a Colgate defender to ice the puck with 24 ticks on the first-period clock, a play that helped get the two-goal lead back.
The puck never left the Colgate zone in the first 23 of the 24 remaining seconds. Four of five shots bounced off the Raiders' goalie before Little's forehand wrister went top shelf with one second left to cap the visitors' impressive opening frame.
"Denny [Kearney] saw me from behind the net and got the puck out. It bounced off a Colgate skate but still got to me," said Little. "I just tried to throw it on net. We were good at finishing our shots and crashing the net today."
The second period may have had just one goal, a pretty Backman wrister with 57 seconds left, but it had all the end-to-end action of the opening one. Colgate had nine of the 16 shots, but Blase weathered a long two-man deficit that was part of three straight power plays for the home team.
Yale's lone senior netminder had to fight off four or five grade-A scoring chances over four straight minutes of a penalty kill. Bulldogs blocked shots, made big saves, cleared the puck and even got scoring chances to help blank the Raiders.
"I try to have fun in those situations. I love trying to stop pucks and having a chance to prove to my teammates what I can do," said Blase. "Everyone contributed tonight in a great team effort."
During the shortage, Little went in alone on Evin and missed a backhander. Another classic example of the Yale hustle was Denny Kearney hustling back to pull up a shooter's stick just before a quality scoring chance.
Miller did a lot of the hard work to create the goal in the last minute of the frame. He controlled the puck in the corner before turning to fire a lead pass to Backman, who raced to catch it and then fire on net for his 16th of the year.
Blase continued to be hot through the first half of the final frame. When Austin Smith broke free down a man to go in alone on the Yale goalie, Blase kicked aside the shot. The Raiders did manage to get two pucks past him after the game was out of reach.
Robbie Bourdon (7th) and Brisebois (12th) sandwiched goals around Backman's second tally during a three-goal third.
BULLDOG BITES: The only change in the lineup from last Saturday was Nick Jaskowiak replacing Mike Matczak on defense... The Elis drove to Hamilton on Thursday afternoon after practicing at Ingalls Rink... The team stayed at a hotel two miles away and skated at Colgate Friday morning... Starr Rink holds more (2,800) people than the population (2,000) of Hamilton... The Blue plays at Cornell's Lynah Rink on Saturday night in a game that can be heard for free on wybc.com. A pay-per-view stream is also available on cornellbigred.com.
Story filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director