Nation's Longest Win Streak at 6
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Wearing an enormous No. 1 target on their backs was tough enough. Watching a senior teammate go down with an injury just 16 seconds into the game could have primed the Bulldogs' struggling opponent for a major upset. Instead, the No. 1 Yale men's hockey team used both to motivate it to a 3-0 win over Vermont in front of a third straight sellout crowd at Ingalls Rink.
The Bulldogs (11-1), who own the nation's longest (6) active win streak, got 32 saves and a second straight shutout from senior goalie Ryan Rondeau and two goals from senior forward Chris Cahill to help avenge a loss to the Catamounts (1-8-4) last year at Burlington. Andrew Miller, who had the other goal, and Brian O'Neill each had two points in Yale's last game before a three-week break for exams and the holidays.
"We've had a target on our backs since midway through my freshman year," said O'Neill, who thinks the Elis are accustomed to playing under pressure. "It's cool being No. 1 but the only thing that matters is getting to the [NCAA] tournament and hopefully winning it."
Yale lost Jeff Anderson to an injury and scrambled to get its typical offensive flow. The Elis, outshot (32-30) for the first time this year, rallied with great defense and hit the net three times over the last 40 minutes.
Rondeau, whose scoreless streak reached 135 minutes and 23 seconds, became the first Bulldog netminder to notch consecutive shutouts since Alex Westlund blanked Cornell (11-0) and Colgate (2-0) at the Whale on Feb. 6-7, 1998.
"I felt like my positioning was solid today, but my rebound control was a little suspect," said Rondeau, who is 10-0 this year and is now ranked fourth in the country in goals against (1.70) and save percentage (.935). "The defense did a good job of boxing out and keeping them on the outside."
The Bulldogs had a 10-8 edge in shots over the first 20 minutes but neither team found the net. A Yale man-advantage produced a few close chances but there were few grade-A chances overall. The big bodies of the UVM defense (6 averaging 213 pounds, all but one 6-foot-2 or taller) clogged the slot and made it tough for Eli skaters to create space.
Meanwhile, Vermont goalie Rob Madore (27 saves) was making big stops on Yale's second power-play opportunity early in the second. Two of the biggest stops came later on Broc Little. On one of them, Yale's top scorer came in alone after a nifty Colin Dueck feed and tried to slip a shot five-hole, but the junior netminder closed his legs in time.
The home team finally broke through at 10:24 of the middle frame during a delayed penalty. With a pair of orange-striped arms in the air and the Yale goalie on the bench, captain Jimmy Martin sent the puck across to Miller at the left point and the sophomore center rifled a slap shot off the left post and behind Madore for his fourth of the year.
UVM, blanked for the second time this year, came within inches of the equalizer on its first man-advantage when a shot from the point hit the post and dangled dangerously behind Rondeau before he covered up.
A five-minute major penalty gave the Elis' power-play unit another chance, and Yale used it to get a hard-working tally and a 2-0 lead six minutes into the third. Madore stopped a point-blank Cahill shot, but the juicy rebound was there for the senior to notch his seventh goal of the year.
Rondeau, who had 16 saves in the third, took over from there. His biggest saves of the night came early in final period during a 4-on-4 and then late when UVM pulled its goalie.
The extra skater did not work. Cahill's empty-netter from mid ice with 15 seconds left clinched the victory and sent the crowd home with one last roar.
"We've been more focused on defense and protecting leads, but we are not sitting back," said senior forward Denny Kearney.
O'Neill added some perspective to that thought. "We get a lot of publicity for our offense, but our defense is playing very well."
BULLDOG BITES: Yale is off for three weeks and next plays at home on Dec. 29 against a Russian Touring Team. That night the Elis will be without head coach Keith Allain, who is serving as head coach of the U.S. Junior National Team at the World Championships in Buffalo, N.Y... This was Yale's first win over UVM since 2003.
filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director