Backman, Laganiere Lead Blue over Tigers
PRINCETON, N.J. -
PRINCETON, N.J. - It took six unanswered goals over the last half of the game for the No. 4/5 Yale men's hockey team to erase a 4-1 deficit on the way to a 7-4 win that clinches at least a share of the ECAC Hockey Regular Season Championship. Princeton took a three-goal lead four minutes into the second, and it looked like the Bulldogs (19-6-3, 15-4-2) might be denied the chance to clinch a conference title at Baker Rink for the second straight year.
Instead, for the second straight week, the Elis overcame a late, three-goal deficit to capture a second straight ECAC season title with their seventh consecutive victory. And Yale managed seven goals with seven shots less than its season average while outshooting the Tigers 33-27.
The Bulldogs, who can clinch an outright title with a either a win or a tie at Quinnipiac or a Cornell loss or tie on Saturday night, will be the conference's No. 1 seed for the second straight year.
Sean Backman, who now has 21 goals, had two and an assist and Antoine Laganiere hit the net twice for an Eli team that won all three games against the Tigers (11-14-3, 7-12-2) this year. Mark Arcobello, Broc Little and Brian O'Neill had the other Yale tallies against Princeton goalies Zane Kalemba (22 saves) and Mike Condon (4).
Freshman Nick Maricic recovered from a nine-shot, three-goal opening frame to finish with 23 saves and his biggest collegiate win. His 10-save second period helped change the momentum in a game heading in favor of the home team.
The Tigers got on the board first when Mark Magnowski re-directed a shot from the point at 8:29 that Maricic had no chance to stop. It was his seventh tally of the winter.
Princeton forward Marc Hagel (5th goal), while falling to the ice, made it 2-0 with a one-timer from the middle of the slot. The feed from the right circle came across and he swung toward the goal and got just enough of the puck to slip it inside the left post at 11:23.
The Bulldogs had two power play chances in the first frame but only one was a full opportunity. The man-advantage that didn't get canceled early resulted in a Backman (20th) slap shot from the right circle that cut the lead to 2-1 at 14:11. Yale finished two of three advantages with goals.
"This is extremely satisfying. These guys have worked so hard and I wanted to see them rewarded for it," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. "Tonight they were."
The visitors could not keep the deficit at one for intermission. Unable to clear its zone, Yale gave up a tough one with 1:27 left. Tigers' blueliner Jody Pederson jumped all over a loose puck in the circle and blasted a low shot through traffic for his third of the year.
Princeton pushed the lead to three early in the middle frame before the Bulldogs reeled off three straight to make it 4-4 at the second intermission. Maricic came up with three or four quality saves to allow Yale to make the big comeback.
Before things turned, defenseman Michael Sdao (5th) easily tapped home a crossing pass into an open side of the net after a 2-on-1 rush that saw the lone Eli defender sliding across the slot to block the shot. Mike Kramer held long enough to avoid the defender and get it over for the pretty goal at 4:15 that made it 4-1. The crowd was beginning to buzz but the Bulldogs did not see the game slip away.
"Rather than panic, we simplified our game," said Allain, who has won two ECAC regular-season titles and three Ivy League championships in four seasons. "We had to play our game, use our speed and get pucks deep."
Backman (21st) took a drop pass from O'Neill in the right circle and let fly a low slap shot that zipped inside the far post to cut the deficit in half midway through the period.
A few minutes later, Little worked the puck from the right corner and cycled around the circle. Kalemba focused on the Bulldogs' leading goal scorer as he carried past the dot and then flipped it across to Arcobello (11th). Yale's senior forward, who had two Grade-A scoring chances in the opening period, one-timed the feed, a few inches off the ice, into an open side.
Then Backman's blast from the top of the circle was re-directed over Kalemba's shoulder by O'Neill (12th) at 17:33 to even the score heading to the third.
Ten seconds into the final period, Arcobello found the puck in the right circle with room to shoot. He sent it toward the goal and Little (25th) got his stick on the puck before it got to Kalemba. That turned out to be the winner.
Laganiere, who had been wreaking havoc on the forecheck all night, began to cash in. The rookie forward who now has seven goals worked extremely hard to produce the last two goals. He got one almost two minutes after Little's and then saved his best move of the night for the nine-minute mark. Laganiere spun with the puck in the lower circle and flicked a backhander at Kalemba to make it 7-4.
"We've come back before, and we knew we could because we just weren't playing our best hockey," said Backman. "We knew we had time to change that and we fed off the momentum. When things start going well for us we feed off it."
"We worked all season for this [title], but we have more to accomplish," said senior defenseman Jimmy Martin.
Maricic, who now leads the team with seven victories in net, got a big boost from the defense over the last 30 minutes.
"The defense stepped up. They picked up the other options, and all I had to worry about was the shots. They took away the back doors and other options," said Maricic.
BULLDOG BITES: There were two lineup changes from the last game; freshman Antoine Laganiere replaced classmate Josh Balch at forward, while sophomore Nick Jaskowiak was in for junior Ken Trentowski on defense... Saturday night's game is a 7:30 faceoff that airs live on NESN and can also be heard on wybc.com/AM-1340... Tickets for the ECAC Quarterfinals at Ingalls Rink on March 11-13 are on sale now. They can be purchased by calling 203.432.1400 or on yalebulldogs.com.
report and photo filed by Steve Conn
Photo of captain Ryan Donald receiving Cleary Cup from Steve Hagwell