Richards Stops 36 Shots in Battle of Ranked Teams

Feb. 7, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Alec Richards stopped 36 of 37 shots and got goals from three different teammates as the No. 14 Yale men's hockey team beat No. 19 Dartmouth 3-1 in ECAC action before a sellout crowd at Ingalls Rink.

The Bulldogs (17-5-1, 12-3-1 ECAC), who increased their win streak to six and unbeaten string to seven, had the advantage in shots (44-36) and overcame a 1-0 deficit with three straight goals to earn a season sweep of the Green.

Richards, a senior rising through the ranks (15th with 2.19 GAA) of goalies around the nation over the last two weeks, had a season-high 36 saves including 16 over the final 20 minutes to help Yale clinch its first season sweep over Dartmouth/Harvard in 57 years. The win also gave the Blue sole possession of first place in ECAC Hockey because Cornell lost to Princeton 2-1.

Tonight's results also clinched Yale's share of the championship in the Ivy League (Elis are 8-0), the league within the conference.

Dartmouth (12-8-3, 9-5-2), which had not lost a conference game since falling to Yale 2-1 on Jan. 9 at Hanover, got a great performance from its rookie goalie Jody O'Neill, who followed up a 53-save performance against Yale last month with 41 stops tonight.

Denny Kearney and Matt Nelson put pucks past O'Neill, while Sean Backman tallied an empty-netter when the Big Green goalie was pulled for an extra attacker.

"It was not a great start for us," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. "I am really impressed with the way our guys responded after the first period. We came out and stormed them in the second, which says a lot about these guys."

The Big Green, who outshot Yale in the first 14-12, didn't produce on their first two man-advantages, but they got a 5-on-3 late in the period that led to the only tally of the frame and the only power-play goal of the night. Just six seconds into the two-man advantage, defenseman Joe Stejskal (7th goal), who took a little drop pass from Evan Stephens, blasted a slap shot from the left circle that went high and inside the near post on Richards' stick side at 18:00.

The Elis came out buzzing in the second period and put 20 shots and two goals on O'Neill compared to seven shots on Richards. After putting 50 shots on the Harvard net last night and scoring five times, the Bulldogs couldn't crack O'Neill until their 16th shot, which came just more than 26 minutes into the game.

Ken Trentowski's shot from the point hit Broc Little in the low slot. The puck came to Kearney (5th), who quickly snapped off a rising shot that went over O'Neill's glove at 6:21 to even the score at 1-1.

The Blue made it two in a row when Nelson, the captain, notched his second goal of the year at 16:49. Brendan Mason did all the hard work in the corner grabbing a loose puck and carrying along the boards before finding Nelson in traffic outside the crease. Nelson one-timed the pass through O'Neill's legs for a 2-1 lead.

A wild and feisty third period saw the most shots on target (the teams combined for 26 in the first, 27 in the second and 28 in the third), the best saves by both goaltenders and the hardest hits, including some late ones.

Richards took what looked like a certain game-tying goal away from Josh Gillam, who was on the doorstep early in the third. O'Neill made huge stop after huge stop down a man and at even strength. With less than a minute left, Little took a loose puck at center ice and came in alone on the Dartmouth net trying to tuck a shot past O'Neill. The Green goalie stood his ground and almost effortlessly knocked the attempt aside before leaving the ice with 33 seconds left.

"Coach [Allain] stressed my practice habits the last few weeks and that has really helped," said Richards, whose goals against average in ECAC play is 1.57. "It was nice to get into the game early and have some early chances."

That's when Backman scooped up a teammate's clearing attempt in the Dartmouth end and deposited the puck in the back of the net. As he slowed down before running into the boards behind the net, he was clocked by Stejskal, which drew a penalty and set off some fireworks on both sides and with the enthusiastic crowd, Yale's fourth straight sellout at home.

"We're thrilled with the way we are playing," said Backman, who has a team-high 14 goals. "We are getting the formula [for winning] down. After a big Yale-Harvard game, it's tough to do it the next night. Once we got in rhythm, we just started playing `Yale' hockey. The team really feeds off the energy of the crowd."

The Bulldogs are on the road next week to take on Union and Rensselaer. Friday night's 7:30 game at Schenectady airs live on the NHL Network (DirecTV 215).

Recap filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD & Sports Publicity Director

Video by David Dikranian