March 20, 2009
ALBANY, N.Y. - Yale players have been asked to reflect on the stunning comeback at Colgate almost every time a sports writer inquires about the 2008-09 season. The Jan. 24 game where the Bulldogs scored five straight times over the last 12 minutes to win 5-4 became a distant memory tonight. The No. 7 ranked Elis, trailing by a goal with less than two minutes to play in the first ECAC Hockey semifinal at the Times Union Center in Albany, tallied twice in 22 seconds to beat No. 14 St. Lawrence 4-3.
Matt Nelson's goal with 66 seconds left capped the amazing comeback and sent Yale (23-7-2) to its first-ever conference tournament championship game against Cornell, which won a double-OT thriller against Princeton. The Bulldogs' first semifinal victory in four tries also tied the school record for wins in a season.
Nelson, the Yale captain, took a perfect lead pass from Brendan Mason and re-directed it over the leg of St. Lawrence goalie Alex Petizian (27 saves).
"He [Mason] feathered a perfect saucer pass. I knew I had to score or I was going to hear about that forever," said Nelson, whose second game-winner this season was his fourth tally of the year and snapped SLU's eight-game unbeaten streak. "I'm not known as a goal scorer, but I have found my role by doing other things. The nice thing about this team is that everyone contributes."
Nelson and Mason were in a position to win the game because the Bulldogs, with their goalie out of the net, won a big faceoff after a timeout with 1:34 left. Mark Arcobello won the draw and got the puck to Broc Little, who flipped a shot toward the net. Arcobello, standing on the edge of the left circle closest to the goal, backhanded a rebound inside the far post with 1:28 remaining to tie the game.
"The puck bounced back to me. I controlled it and then turned and fired. I got off a backander that came off my stick funny," said Arcobello, whose slow-moving shot slipped across the crease and into the right corner of the net.
No. 1 seed Yale, uncharacteristically outshot (38-31), stayed in the game because of Alec Richards' play in net. The senior, who stopped all 17 shots in the third period, finished with 35 saves, including a number of wild flurries in the Yale crease over the last five minutes.
After the Elis had taken the lead, the No. 4 seed Saints (21-12-4), had two or three grade-A chances to even it again. On one of the pile-ups in front of the Yale net, defenseman Jimmy Martin came to the rescue and made a save when Richards got pushed to the side.
"Jimmy made a great play on a funny bounce. I have to take my hat off to him," said Richards of the sophomore blueliner.
Jared Keller's shot from the far side of the right circle at 12:11 of the first period was the only tally of a first period that had Yale with a 13-10 edge in shots. Keller had little to shoot at but still snuck one inside the near post to make it 1-0.
The Blue had a few grade-A chances in the first 20 minutes, but Petizian managed to get a piece of all 13 shots.
Yale finally broke through 4:12 into the second when Little took a pass from Denny Kearney and fired a low wrist shot for his 15th goal of the year. Kearney was behind the net when he found his linemate open in the high slot.
"This was a great college hockey game," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey, who had not earned a win (0-1-1) against SLU this season. "I have tremendous amount of respect for St. Lawrence. They were one of the hottest teams in the nation, and I knew it would be a great game. It just seemed like tonight was our turn."
The Elis made it two straight with the game's only power-play tally a little more than two minutes later, and a pair of blueliners combined on it. Martin sent pass across the point to Ken Trentowski, who controlled the puck and then flicked a low shot through traffic and into the back of the net. Trentowski's shot from the left circle resulted in the sophomore's first collegiate goal and a 2-1 lead.
Yale's only lead lasted about three and half minutes. Zach Miskovic blasted a rising slapshot from the top of the left circle inside the far post at 9:39 to even the score at 2-2.
The Saints, who grabbed their second lead, also got consecutive goals. Little carried to the SLU net and had a wonderful opportunity to score, but Petizian made the stop. St. Lawrence defenseman Derek Keller flipped the rebound out of the zone where two teammates were chasing and ahead of everyone from Yale. Kevin Devergilio (11th goal) caught up with a puck rolling on its edge near the top of the left circle. The senior winger carried across the slot, Richards did not come out to challenge and Devergilio deked left and then tucked it past the Yale goalie at 16:54.
SLU had a chance to put it away midway through the third frame with 1:29 of 5-on-3 hockey after Ryan Donald was called for delay of game. The call was made after reviewing the video. Fortunately for Yale, Richards was up to the task. He made a big save down two men and then another one down a man. He got run over by a few players in the process of making the second one.
"We had three or four [player] changes on the penalty-kill," said Allain, whose team has likely secured a spot in the 16-team NCAA Tournament that begins next weekend. "That could have been the difference for us."
"We take it a step at a time. It's been great to realize some of our goals," said Nelson. "We are excited to be playing this late in March and we hope it goes longer and longer."
Bulldog Bites: The Bulldogs arrived in Albany on Thursday afternoon and had an hour practice at the Times Union Center... The official hotel of the ECAC Hockey Championships is a few blocks from the arena, so all teams are walking between the two... Thursday night's tournament banquet was a festive one for the Elis, who had six players and head coach Keith Allain receiving awards. Mark Arcobello (1st team), Sean Backman (2nd), Tom Dignard (2nd), Alec Richards (3rd), Broc Little (3rd) and Brian O'Neill (Rookie) received their ECAC plaques, while Allain was handed the Tim Taylor Award as the conference coach of the year... Senior captain Matt Nelson, whose clever remarks were rehashed often last night, represented the Bulldogs by providing a few choice comments about his team, the league and the tournament.
Recap filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD & Sports Publicity Director