Bulldogs Fall Short in Chance to Clinch

Feb. 21, 2009

PRINCETON, NJ - Yale needed a win to clinch the men's ECAC Hockey regular season championship, but Princeton goalie Zane Kalemba, who ended the nation's second longest unbeaten streak with 31 saves, handed the Bulldogs a 2-0 loss before a sellout crowd at Hobey Baker Rink.

Junior defenseman Jody Pederson's power-play shot from the point with 14:26 left in the third was the game-winner, ending Yale's unbeaten string at 10 games and pulling the Tigers to within two points of the first-place Elis with one weekend left.

The game between the No. 7 Bulldogs and No. 10 Tigers, first and second in the conference respectively, had playoff intensity. It was also the seventh meeting in two years between the familiar Ancient Eight rivals.

Princeton, the fourth team this year to outshoot (35-31) the Bulldogs, was the first opponent to put more shots on target and win. Senior Yale goalie Alec Richards stopped 33 of 34 shots, continuing his excellent play.

Both teams had good chances in a scoreless first period, but the Bulldogs had a few more of the grade-A variety. Kevin Limbert nearly converted a Denny Kearney pass midway through a frame that included 10 saves for both Richards and Kalemba. The Yale goalie did have to face a pair of Tiger power plays.

The only similarity in the second period was no pucks hitting the net. This frame had wild action at both ends, but Richards, who had a laser shot bounce off his mask, clearly saw the most rubber.

Brett Wilson, parked in the low slot, had two great chances 10 seconds apart. He re-directed a pass off the Bulldog goalie and then snapped a one-timer that was blocked by a Yale forward Charles Brockett, supporting low.

Tiger star Lee Jubinville had an open left side of the net after getting his stick on a crossing feed, but Richards slid across in time to make another big save.

At the other end, Kalemba's first scare came from Broc Little, who made a moves to get through the defense and challenge the net. The junior Tiger netminder later stole a one-timer ticketed for the upper right corner off the stick of Brian O'Neill. Turns out that was the best opportunity for the Blue on the night.

The only power-play opportunity of the third period turned into the winner. Brett Wilson passed the puck form the corner to Taylor Fedun at the right point, and he sent it across the blueline to Pederson, who one-timed it past Richards through traffic.

Strangely, the penalty that led to the winner was called on Kevin Limbert, who went to the net with the puck and was called for interference.

"It was a great hockey game between two very fast, physical and competitive teams. Unfortunately, a power-play goal was the difference," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs had just two chances with the advantage while Princeton went 1-for-4.

Among Yale's 11 shots on target in the third was Little's nasty backhander with 4:15 left that challenged Kalemba, who blanked Yale for the third time in two seasons. His effort clinched a first-round bye for the Tigers and kept them in contention for the regular-season title.

Richards was pulled with about a minute left, but it never materialized into anything. Kevin Kaiser stole a Yale pass at the blueline and sent a long wrister through a defender into an empty net with 47 seconds left.

Yale, suffering its first road loss since Nov. 7 (9-game streak) at St. Lawrence, was blanked for the first time since Nov. 21 at home against Alabama-Huntsville (1-0). The last time the Blue was shut out on the road was by Kalemba and the Tigers during last March's conference tournament.

The Bulldogs, who have 30 points in ECAC play and a two-point lead over Princeton (28), host third-place Cornell (27) Friday night at Ingalls before closing the regular season with a March 1 afternoon game against Colgate.

Recap filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD & Sports Publicity Director