BACKMAN HITS NET TO PUT YALE IN FIRST
ITHACA, N.Y. - Sean Backman's wrist shot from the lower right circle beat Ben Scrivens at 3:17 of overtime as the Yale men's hockey team beat Cornell 2-1 in an ECAC Hockey battle of top 10 ranked teams before a sellout crowd at Lynah Rink. The No. 6/7 Bulldogs (16-6-3, 12-4-2 ECAC) erased a 1-0 deficit with two straight goals to take over first place in the conference while clinching the 2009-10 Ivy League title.
A season-high 54 shots on goal were indicative of how Yale controlled the play, but it didn't help the Blue on the power play (0-for-5).
After a scoreless third period, the visitors put seven shots on the Cornell net before Backman connected on a pretty play with Brian O'Neill to take the contest away from a Big Red team (14-7-3, 12-3-2) that was also ranked sixth and seventh in the two major polls and was part of a three-way tie for the ECAC lead.
Defenseman Jimmy Martin got the puck at the point and put it back along the boards low to O'Neill. The sophomore forward, who had put the puck on Backman's stick at least three or four times on the same charge to the net, did it again. Backman, who helped Yale to its fifth straight win over Cornell, controlled quickly and sent it under Scrivens for his 18th of the year.
"My job is to get lost and hit an open hole. I did that and Brian found me," said Backman, who had a three-goal , four-point weekend. "I saw him [Scrivens] slide across and thought if I got it off quickly enough it could hit the back of the net. I put it five-hole."
"All good teams try to make plays down low. This was three good hockey players making a big play," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. "I can't imagine a better college hockey game. I have a lot of respect for them [Cornell]. That was as good as we have played this year."
O'Neill, who also had a goal and four assists this weekend, was singing his linemate's praises after the game.
"Sean is really good at going to the net, and he had been working his butt off to get open near the net," said O'Neill. "Jimmy [Martin] gave me the puck and I spun off a defender. I just try to throw the puck in his area. Sometimes it works."
The OT tally made senior goalie Billy Blase a winner for the fourth time in as many decisions this year. He made just 19 saves on the night, but Blase had to come up with many quality stops to get the Blue its fourth straight win and second straight four-point weekend.
Scrivens, who was spectacular at the other end, finished with 52 saves, including seven in the extra session.
"Scrivens was great and his rebound control was excellent," said O'Neill. "We kept peppering him but didn't get frustrated. We tried to wear him down and we knew that we are a third-period team."
Both sides had unsuccessful power-play chances, but the Red potted the only goal of the opening frame at 6:49. Colin Greening snapped back a rebound of Riley Nash's shot for his 11th of the year. The first 20 minutes were a real test for both Blase (11 saves) and Scrivens (13); the two seniors had a handful of quality stops.
"It's always a big-game feel in this place," said Blase. "I'm just grateful I got to play up here one last time."
The Bulldogs worked as hard as a team could work to squeeze out the equalizer in another one-goal period. Yale outshot the home team 20-4 and went scoreless on three man-advantages, but managed to tie things at 13:48.
After two straight kills by the Cornell special teams, the Bulldogs continued to work the puck around Scrivens. Denny Kearney, with a defender draped all over him behind the net, backhanded a pass to the low slot. Mark Arcobello was racing in from the circle and one-timed a shot past Scrivens' glove for his ninth goal.
Blase, despite seeing all the rubber flying at the other end, still had to come up with a couple of big saves. He had superb support from the defense and great back-checking from the forwards to stifle almost every Red rush.
Last year in late February at Ingalls Rink, the Elis clinched their second ECAC Hockey regular season championship by beating the Big Red. This meeting was almost as important, and had the feel of a true showdown.
BULLDOG BITES: Freshman forward Antoine Laganiere replaced classmate Josh Balch in tonight's lineup... There were no players from New York in either lineup... The Bulldogs are home next Friday and Saturday to host St. Lawrence and Clarkson in the last regular season games at Ingalls Rink. Saturday's 4 pm game is Yale Hockey Youth Day.