January 24, 2009

Limbert OT Goal Caps Stunning Comeback

Jan. 24, 2009

HAMILTON, NY - The Yale men's hockey team, trailing by four goals with just over 12 minutes left in the game, scored five straight and stunned Colgate 5-4 in overtime before 1,150 at Starr Rink in ECAC Hockey play.

Kevin Limbert's goal one minute into the OT ended the game. Yale junior defenseman Tom Dignard had two goals and one assist while Broc Little and Sean Backman also hit the net.

The Bulldogs (13-5-1, 8-3-1) pulled out a weekend road sweep and one of the most improbable comebacks ever by outshooting the Raiders (6-13-5, 1-7-3) 46-16, including 19-5 in the third period. Blanking Colgate on six power-play attempts, while not allowing one shot on net over the nearly 12 minutes of man-advantages, also contributed to the stunning result.

The Bulldog comeback was sparked by an unorthodox tactic by Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. He pulled goalie Alec Richards to get a 6-on-5 with the Elis down 4-0 midway through the third frame. The move immediately resulted in a Dignard goal and the flood gates opened on Colgate freshman goalie Alex Evin, who finished with 41 saves.

"This proves that no matter what the situation we are facing, we have the ability to win," said Eli captain Matt Nelson. "This win sets us on the track we need to be on for the rest of the season."

Richards, who replaced Yale starter Ryan Rondeau (9 saves) after the Raiders' fourth goal, needed three saves in the third frame to earn the victory.

"This team never stopped believing they could do it," said Allain. "It's nice to see them get rewarded for that effort."

Colgate had three power-play chances compared to one for Yale, but the Elis outshot the Raiders 11-7 in a scoreless first period. However, the best scoring chance came from the home team midway through the frame when Rondeau got caught out of the net. Jason Williams shot the puck at the net from the slot but Sean Backman crossed through the crease just as the puck arrived and knocked it aside.

The Raiders, despite being outshot 15-4, cashed in on a pair of defensive miscues that led to breakaways and a 2-0 lead after the second 20 minutes.

Nick Prockow, looking for his first collegiate goal, stole the puck from a Bulldog defender inside the Yale blueline and came in alone on the net. Prockow had an open winger as support and no Bulldogs to deal with except Rondeau. The freshman center held the puck and gently slipped a slow backhander through the sophomore goalie's legs at 1:35.

The Elis looked like they tied the score early in the second on a Denny Kearney re-direction outside the crease. The goalie was immediately waved off and confirmed five minutes later when referee Alex Dell went to watch the video replay.

Colgate jumped all over a miscue on a Bulldog power play to up the lead at the 12:24 mark. Leading scorer David McIntyre grabbed a loose puck near his own blueline and raced in alone on the Yale net. He deked left and then tucked the puck inside the right post for his 13th tally of the season.

Goals by Nick St. Pierre and Brian Day nearly four minutes apart in the third sent Rondeau to the bench while it seemed to clinch the much needed win for the struggling Raiders.

Allain's move to add an extra skater with 11 minutes left surprised everyone in the building.

"I was a little confused, but it sure paid off," said Dignard, whose two-goal outing was a collegiate high.

"The way were playing, there was just this feeling on the bench that it could work," said Allain, whose Bulldogs jumped over Princeton into sole possession of second place in the ECAC. "It was a real roll of the dice, but I really felt like letting the dice roll at that point. I've never done that before."

After Dignard's goal cut the lead to 4-1, the first of three goals in just over four minutes, Little took a feed from the Yale blueliner, skated out of the corner and fired a low shot past Evin at 10:45 to make it 4-2.

A Mike Matczak penalty at 7:58 looked to derail the Yale comeback but actually added fuel to the fire. Kearney grabbed a loose puck and sent a perfect lead pass to Dignard, who was sprinting ahead of the defense. The Yale defenseman stuck the puck between Evin's legs at 11:49 to cut the margin to one and give the visitors their sixth shorthander of the year.

The Raiders looked like they felt the walls were caving in. They repeatedly tried to clear the puck without success and the Elis cycled and spun their wheels in the offensive zone. A rebound put-back turned into the equalizer by a Bulldog looking for his first goal in six games.

Matczak's shot from the point bounced off Evin's pad and slid out to Backman, who was cruising in from the point. Backman's shot hit the pipe and bounced off Evin's back before rolling over the goal line just before the goalie reached back. The game-tying goal came at 17:57.

Kearney's second great lead pass was the game-winner. This time he hit Limbert in stride with a crossing feed outside the blueline and the freshman forward did the rest. After Limbert tucked the puck five-hole, his teammates had enough energy left to pile on top of him in the corner celebration.

The Bulldogs are home next weekend to host Princeton and Quinnipiac in a pair of 7 p.m. games.

Notes: Freshman forward Brian O'Neill and sophomore forward Brendan Mason were scratches from the lineup after injuries at Cornell... The Elis skated an all freshmen line that included two defenseman to make up for the missing forwards. Kevin Peel and Nick Jaskowiak moved up from the blueline to join Charles Brockett... The "MAN" line of Mason, Jeff Anderson and captain Matt Nelson had to be altered.

Report filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD and Sports Publicity Director

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