NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The success of the Yale men's hockey team could hinge on its power play since the Bulldogs are now 9-0 in games they have hit the net at least twice with a man advantage. Six different players scored goals - including three on the power play -- and Billy Blase stopped 20 shots as the No. 8 Elis raced past Harvard 6-3 in an ECAC Hockey contest before a packed house at Ingalls Rink.
Senior forward Sean Backman had a goal and two assists and helped the Bulldogs (14-6-3, 10-4-2) outshot the Crimson 47-23 and earn a four-point weekend and move into a three-way conference tie for first place at 22 points with Cornell and Union.
"We had gone a few weekends in a row without a sweep. It feels good to do that again," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey.
Blase, the senior goalie from Santa Monica, Calif., improved his season record to 3-0 with the victory in his first start of 2009-10. He had won two games in relief while not allowing a goal. Eight saves in each of the last two frames and stopping five of six Crimson advantages were enough to give him the win.
Broc Little, a junior who is among the nation's leaders in goals per game, had a goal and two points to complete a three-goal weekend.
The Crimson (6-13-3, 6-7-3), who beat Yale at Boston last month, could not stop the Elis' power play, which potted three goals on four attempts against Harvard goalie Ryan Carroll (41 saves).
The Bulldogs put the early pressure on the Harvard net and parlayed it into a 17-4 advantage in shots in the first. More importantly, Yale's hard work enabled it to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Yale's seventh shot on target was the first to get by Carroll. Backman took the puck to the net and fired a shot off the goalie's pads. The rebound came out to the edge of the crease where Jeff Anderson was in position to slap it back for his fourth tally of the year.
Bulldog blueliner Kevin Peel got his third goal this season when he jumped all over a loose puck in the high slot at 13:40. Denny Kearney tried to tuck a pass along the crease but it bounced off a defender and went out to Peel, who wound up and blasted a high shot over Carroll's shoulder. The power-play goal was Yale's only opportunity in the first 40 minutes.
The Crimson took advantage of their third power-play chance by cutting the lead in half at 12:12 of the second. With 32 seconds left on the advantage, Chris Huxley (2nd goal) sent a low shot from the point through traffic that went stick side on Blase. It turned out to be the only tally of a middle frame.
Three Eli shots clanged off the pipe in the first 40 minutes, two of them came in the second period.
The visitors needed just 22 seconds of the third to pull even at 2-2. An innocuous looking low shot from the left circle evaded Blase and gave Alex Killorn his seventh of the year.
The Bulldogs answered at 3:56 with their second man-advantage goal on as many chances. Brendan Mason (7th) took a pass from Jimmy Martin and carried the puck to the right side of the net before sending a shot that bounced off a defender and into the back of the net for a 3-2 lead.
Yale's best special teams game since the five power-play goal night on Jan. 16 was much needed. Tom Dignard's (5th) rising slapshot from the top of the left circle at 4:54 capped a 5-on-3 advantage and gave the home team its two-goal lead again.
The highlight goal of the day came off the stick of Little. He took a pass from Mark Arcobello, went along the left side and around a defenseman who stayed tight on him. Little (18th), with the defender draped on him, cruised in and flicked a backhander over Carroll's left shoulder at 9:47 that nearly knocked the water bottle off.
"Arco [Mark Arcobello] had a great pass. I leaned in on the guy and held him off... Just like the play that drew a penalty shot last night," said Little, who thought his shot had trickled in after hitting the goalie.
"He's such a threat. If he gets a step on a guy, it can turn into two steps very quickly," said Allain, who is now 65-45-12 as Yale head coach.
Ryan Grimshaw's first goal of the year at 11:28 of the third cut the lead to 5-3, but there was more left in the Yale offense.
Harvard pulled Carroll with 2:38 left and with two Elis in the penalty box. The 6-on-3 for 19 seconds did not produce a shot on goal. The two-man advantage resulted in one Blase save before Backman (15th) took a loose puck at center ice and hit the empty net at 18:25.
"One of the things that I was most happy about today was our depth, especially what I saw from the [Kevin] Limbert, [Chad] Ziegler, [Josh] Balch line. Every shift was high energy. It lifted the whole team."
Yale, which hosts "Skate with the Bulldogs" tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. (free to Yale fans) at Ingalls, is at Colgate and Cornell next Friday and Saturday nights.