KEARNEY, DIGNARD SCORE GOALS IN 3-2 LOSS
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The favored home team does not always have the advantage in the post season, especially when trying to get its timing down after a two-week layoff. Mike Clemente stopped 37 of 39 shots and held off a late rally as Brown knocked off No. 6 Yale 3-2 in the first of a best-of-three ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal series at Ingalls Rink.
The Bears (11-18-4), the No. 11 seed who have won three of their last four games, came into New Haven confident after upsetting a strong RPI team in three games. They scored 57 seconds apart within the first two minutes of the second period and never relinquished the lead. That effort ended Yale’s four-game conference playoff win streak and made Saturday’s game No. 2 a must-win for the No. 1 seed hoping to advance to the ECAC semi-finals at Albany next weekend.
Yale (19-8-3), playing without injured standout senior forward Sean Backman, outshot Brown 39-31 but had trouble finishing and converted only one of seven power-play chances. Tom Dignard, who had two points, and Denny Kearney had the Bulldogs’ goals.
Billy Blase stopped 28 of 31 shots including a number of odd-man rushes, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Elis from losing for the first time with the California senior in net. He needed 10 saves in each of the last two frames to keep Yale in the contest.
At the other end, Clemente was knocking down shots all over the place. He had 15 saves in the second and 27 over the final 40 minutes.
Both teams had 10 shots on target and man-advantage time in a scoreless opening frame. The only grade-A scoring chance came from the home team in the fourth minute with Broc Little having a good look at the net. Clemente came up with the save.
“We came out [in the first period] ok. I thought the first was pretty even,” said Keith Allain ’80, Yale’s Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey.
The Bears got a gift seven seconds into the second on a shot from center ice that bounced the wronog way for the Yale goalie. Jack Maclellan won the draw back to defenseman Jeff Buvinow (7th goal) and the sophomore wheeled around and headed up ice before wristing a low, dump-in that went on target. The puck bounced and caught the Eli netminder by surprise.
“I saw it the whole way. I don’t regret the way I played it,” said Blase, the only Yale goalie with post-season experience. “It was a tough bounce. It took a quick hop and went high glove side.”
The visitors got another 57 seconds later on a bouncing puck and another bad break. Buvinow cycled the puck from the corner out to the high slot and fired a low shot wide that bounced off the boards behind the net and came out on the other side for Aaron Volpatti (15th), who had an open side of the net put-back to make it 2-0.
The Blue, which outshot Brown 15-12, had plenty of chances to get on the board in the second. Little hit the post with eight minutes left and that’s when Yale really stepped up the pressure to pepper Clemente with pucks. Most of that momentum was taken away by a not-so-obvious Bulldog bench penalty for too many men on the ice.
Yale finally found the back of the net 5:01 into the third period, cashing in on its sixth man-advantage. Brian O’Neill sent a perfect pass from behind the net and Tom Dignard one-timed it inside the near post.
The Bulldogs turned it up another notch and nearly got the equalizer on two occasions before Brown jumped all over an odd-man rush to make it 3-1. Bobby Farnham banged back a Volpatti shot at 6:14 for his third goal of the year and the eventual game-winner.
The home team could smell a comeback when Buvinow got a five-minute major for hitting from behind with 9:34 left. Two minutes of that power play were interrupted by a Mark Arcobello holding penalty, and the Elis were never able to get one past Clemente.
“We didn’t execute well enough offensively, and we were not sound enough on defense,” said Allain of the defending ECAC Tournament champions.
Blase came to the bench with 1:12 left and Little immediately had a great chance from the circle that was saved. The Elis desperately kept the puck in the Brown end and hit the net with 37.7 left to cut the margin to one. Dignard’s snap shot from the top of the right circle was re-directed in front by Kearney.
Dignard was not done getting pucks toward the net. His shot from the middle of the slot was smothered by Clemente with 19 seconds left, and that was the last of the chances to get the equalizer.
“It came down to them outworking us. They also got a lot of bounces, which happens when you outwork a team,” said Dignard. “When they are getting to pucks faster than us, we look a lot slower. I got the puck in opportune situations and need to bury those.”
The Bulldogs need a win Saturday night to stay in the conference tournament. More could be at stake with a likely drop in the PairWise rankings and an eye toward the NCAA Tournament.
“They [Brown] played the way they had to for a win. I expect us to be better tomorrow night,” said Allain.
Recap filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director
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