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Yale Extends Unbeaten Streak at RPI's Expense

By Chip Malafronte

Troy Record, January 22, 2006

NEW HAVEN - It's a much different scene around the Yale men's hockey locker room these days.

There were plenty of jokes, loud music, and even some singing Saturday night after the Bulldogs ran their unbeaten streak to seven games with a dominating 5-0 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before a sellout of 3,486 at Ingalls Rink.

Quite a change from two months ago, when you could hear a pin drop after an 0-6 start to the season. But this is a different Yale team than it was in November - one playing with confidence that hasn't been seen around Ingalls in two years.

"We knew we were a good team," Yale senior Jeff Hristovski said. "We also knew we were young and it would take a little time."

Freshman goaltender Alec Richards (29 saves) posted his first career shutout, which also happened to be the first time Yale has shut out the Engineers since a 13-0 victory on Dec. 9, 1950 - a span of 80 games. It was also Yale's first shutout win in four years.

"It's nice to sign the score sheet after the game and see nothing but Yale goals," Bulldogs coach Tim Taylor said. "It's been a while since I've done that."

It enabled the Bulldogs (7-10-2, 6-6-1) to complete their third straight weekend conference sweep (they are 6-0-1 in their last seven league games) and climb into a three-way tie for fifth place in the ECAC standings with RPI (11-11-3, 5-4-3) and Dartmouth.

"It's great to climb up the standings," Richards said. "Now we go out thinking we're going to win games instead of being the underdog. After seven straight, you have to have confidence in the locker room."

RPI limped into the weekend with only 17 healthy skaters due to a rash of injuries that sidelined leading scorer Kevin Croxton and top defenseman Brad Farynuk, among others.

While it didn't hinder the Engineers in a 3-1 victory over Brown Friday, playing with just five defensemen may have taken its toll as Saturday's game rolled on.

Adding to its numbers troubles, RPI played the final 12 minutes, 4 seconds without Oren Eizenman - the Engineers' top healthy scorer - who was issued a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind. RPI was already trailing 3-0 at the time, however.

"We knew they were only dressing five defensemen," Hristovski said, "and that they had a tough (Friday). Our plan was to come in forechecking hard and bang them up. You could see in the third period they were getting tired."

Yale got goals from five forwards - Matt Nelson in the first, Joe Zappala and Hristovski in the second and Will Engasser and Brad Mills in the third. Hristovski and Mills scored power-play goals.

"We didn't bring the intensity we needed," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "They jumped on us right off the bat. At times we gained some momentum, but we never sustained any momentum throughout the course of the game."

Nelson, a freshman, scored his third goal of the season with 9:34 left in the first period to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Nelson carried the puck into the RPI zone on a 2-on-1, held it and snapped a shot under the arm of goaltender Mathias Lange (27 saves).

Lange, a freshman from Austria, had two big saves early in the second period to stonewall Yale, including one on a breakaway by Jean-Francois Boucher. But the Bulldogs beat him twice in a two-minute span shortly afterward.

Zappala knocked in the rebound of a Nate Jackson shot with 14:26 left, and Hristovski wristed in a power-play goal with 12:02 left to give Yale a commanding 3-0 lead heading into the final period.

"The first period was our best of the year, in all aspects," Taylor said. "Our special teams and defense did a magnificent job. The only dark cloud was our continued propensity to put ourselves in the penalty box."

Yale was a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill, however, while converting two of its three power-play chances. That included Engasser's goal, which came late in the 5-minute major to Eizenman.