NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Tom Dignard missed the last third of the 2008-09 season with an injury. A new injury prevented him from playing the first three games this year. The senior defenseman made an impactful return with the game-tying goal in the No. 11/12 Yale men's hockey team's 3-3 overtime decision against Colgate before 2,715 at Ingalls Rink.
Dignard, who had three points in Yale's three-point home ECAC weekend, helped the Elis improve to 2-1-2, 1-1-2 in conference play. Sophomore Brian O'Neill had a goal and an assist as the Blue outshot the Raiders 44-22 and came back from a two-goal deficit.
This was the third straight game against Colgate (5-2-4, 3-0-1) that went to extra time and the first blemish on the Raiders' conference record.
Freshman goalie Nick Maricic made 19 saves and allowed one extra-man tally. The Bulldogs went 1-for-4 with the man-advantage while Charles Long stopped 41 shots, including 16 in the middle frame.
Yale had the shot advantage (11-5) in the first period, but Colgate had both goals. Colgate cashed in on its only power-play chance when Brian Day fired a low wrister from the low slot past Maricic at 5:51.
The Raiders made it 2-0 almost six minutes later while killing off a penalty. They also got a little help from the Bulldogs. Jason Williams' shot from the left circle went off Sean Backman's skate at 11:22 for a shorthanded goal.
"I didn't like our start, but we played pretty well after that," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. "We stick with our plan pretty well. There are some guys in that [locker] room who play better with their backs against the wall."
Things improved for the home team in the second; Yale outshot the Raiders 18-8 and scored twice in a combined three-goal frame. The first goal by the Elis came on the man-advantage and snapped an 0-for-10 drought this weekend.
Denny Kearney and Broc Little have had their hands in on most of the Yale goals this season. The two juniors set up O'Neill for one of the nicest scoring plays of the young season to make it 2-1. Kearney ended up getting the puck to the sophomore winger in the high slot before O'Neill deked forehand and flipped a backhander past Long as he passed through the low slot at 6:59.
Colgate made it a two-goal lead again with an off-angle shot that found the net at 11:21. Robbie Bourdon's shot from just off the extension of the goal line went untouched for his fourth goal of the year.
O'Neill was at it again more than a minute later to bring the Blue to within one. He grabbed a loose puck around the Yale blueline, wheeled and spotted Backman open down ice. O'Neill sent a spectacular long lead pass to Backman as he crossed the Colgate blueline. Backman (4th goal) went in alone on Long and waited until the last moment to snap a low wrister under the goalie's glove at 12:47.
After a lot of hard work and missed quality chances, the Bulldogs pulled even at 3-3 with 8:07 left in the third. Jeff Anderson and Nick Jaskowiak worked the puck in the Colgate end before sending it back to the point to their senior defenseman. Dignard's blast from the top of the left circle went inside the near post.
"It was our strategy all night, getting the puck to the defensemen at the point," said Dignard, who was thrilled to be back in the lineup for the first time since last January. "There was traffic in front of the net and the goalie didn't see my shot."
The Elis, who had 13 of the 21 shots on net in the period, pumped up the pressure on the Colgate net over the last few minutes of regulation and produced a few great chances. Andrew Miller snapped a low shot off Long from the mid slot with 43 seconds left, the first of three good opportunities as the Raiders could not clear the puck.
The Bulldogs had a few grade-A chances to take the win in OT but were thwarted by Long. At the other end, the biggest scare was Maricic getting a pad on Francois Brisebois' one-timer off the edge of the crease with a minute left.
"No deficit is too big. We never think we are out of a game," said O'Neill, who finished the weekend with two goals and three assists.
The Elis are back at Ingalls Rink Thursday night to face UMass.