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Yale Falls to USAFA After 3-0 Lead

Brian O'neil ( photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)
Brian O'neil ( photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)

No. 3/4 Bulldogs Lose First Game

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Four straight goals erased a 3-0 deficit as the Air Force men's hockey team upset No. 3/4 Yale 4-3 in front of a packed Cadet Ice Arena.

Air Force (3-6) engineered the comeback by keeping Yale, called for 15 infractions on the night, in the penalty box for most of the third period. Nine penalties in the final period helped turn a game nearing a blowout for Yale (5-1) into a four-goal comeback in just over 10 minutes.

Jeff Malcolm, a sophomore Yale goalie, got his first start since the season opener. The Lethbridge, AB, native got the nod over senior Ryan Rondeau, who was between the pipes for the last four victories. Malcolm was cruising along with 20 saves and a nice cushion before the roof of the dog house caved in. He finished with 25 stops and took the loss despite stopping eight of nine advantages.

Jason Torf, the Falcons' freshman netminder, stopped 34 of 37 shots to earn his first collegiate win and hand the Elis their first defeat of the season. Jimmy Martin, Brian O'Neill and Denny Kearney got pucks past him but it wasn't enough for the nation's leading scoring team. The Elis scored once on four power-play chances.

The Bulldogs had a 12-7 advantage in first-period shots and didn't waste any time getting them on target. O'Neill's shot hit the Air Force goalie just nine seconds after the opening faceoff.

It took three more shots before Yale got on the scoreboard. Jeff Anderson won a draw in the left circle back to Martin. The senior captain moved four strides toward the middle of the ice before releasing a rising wrister that sailed over Torf's right shoulder and off the bottom of the crossbar at 5:17. The USAFA netminder never saw Martin's first goal of the year because of the traffic in the low slot.

Yale jumped all over the game's first advantage with just over a minute left in the opening frame. Andrew Miller had the puck near the top of the left circle and moved it over to the opposite side for Chris Cahill, who quickly sent it across and low for O'Neill. The Eli junior, who has a team-high six goals, easily one-timed it behind Torf at 18:48 to make it 2-0 heading into the first break.

Malcolm needed a few solid saves to keep USAFA off the board, while a late shot went through some legs and clanged a pipe.

The home team got a great opportunity to cut into the deficit early in the second with 52 seconds of 5-on-3. Air Force got one shot on net in that span and nearly scored at the end of the last power play, but John Kruse missed a open side of the net with a bad-angle shot. Malcolm came up with a few more big saves the next few minutes, escaping two grade-A chances.

Torf got a chance to fight through similar adversity at the other end shortly after the Yale goalie's great work. The freshman made four saves during Yale's two-man advantage and a few more to kill off the rest of the penalty that kept USAFA in the game.

A scoreless middle frame had many near misses, including a pile of players crashing the Yale net as Bulldogs pushed back in the crease with 1:43 left. Matching penalties resulted from the mass of bodies, but not a shot on net. The Falcons, who got seven of those again in the period, were frustrated by Yale's collapsing defense, which stifled scoring chances as they crossed the blueline.

The visitors made it 3-0 early in the third on a 4-on-4. Broc Little won a draw in the right circle and fought through the defense with the puck before flipping it on net. It bounced off Torf and out to the opposite side where Kearney was ready to bang it home for his sixth of the year.

"The dagger was stuck in us but not all the way," said USAFA head coach Frank Seratore during his post-game radio interview. "We had been unlucky all night. All we could do was keep fighting. If you sit back and quit fighting, they [Yale] may have thrown in eight more."

USAFA finally cashed in on its power play. Scott Mathis' low blast from the point went five-hole at 5:55 to give the home team some life.

The margin became one almost four minutes later when Paul Weisgarber, killing off a USAFA penalty, skated the length of the ice and flicked a shot off Malcolm's skate. Less than two minutes after, the game was 3-3 thanks to a put-back tally by Jason Fabian with 7:10 left.

The momentum had clearly swung, and playing down a man didn't help the Elis re-gain anything. Stephen Carew cruised in from the point and one-timed a backpass with 3:52 left that won the game for the team that has been to the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years.

"They very well may have been No. 1 or 2 after this weekend [if they beat us]," said Seratore. This was one for the ages. This [unranked team making a big comeback on a No. 3 team] just doesn't happen very often."

The Bulldogs are on the road again this weekend with ECAC contests at Cornell and Colgate.


report filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director