Judging by the level of play evident in last night’s men’s hockey game, the Elis were in prime position to pull off a major upset over a top-ranked team. The only problem was that the opposing goaltender decided to have a career night between the posts.
New Hampshire goalie Jeff Pietrasiak tallied 45 saves as the outplayed No. 12 Wildcats skated past Yale, 4-1, Wednesday night at Ingalls Rink. The loss was just the second setback in Yale’s past seven games.
“I think we played one of our best games of the year,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “We defended a pretty good offensive team, and we actually had more moments to score. … They just made their chances count more efficiently.”
Last night was one of those games when the scoreboard does not necessarily reflect the true quality of play. Though falling behind early in the first period, the Bulldogs outshot New Hampshire, 46-33, and controlled possession throughout the contest. But it was the opportunistic play of the Wildcats that negated Yale’s ability to control the puck.
The Wildcats grabbed a 1-0 lead halfway through the first period when Thomas Fortney slipped the puck past Yale goalie Alec Richards ’09 for a shorthanded goal. Just minutes later, New Hampshire again capitalized on a Eli defensive breakdown when Matt Fornataro shot a one-timer past Richards.
Yale’s lone goal came off the stick of forward Jean-Francois Boucher ’08. With five minutes left in the first period, forward Brad Mills ’07 sent a perfect pass to forward Jeff Hristovski ’06 outside the blueline, and Hristovski found a streaking Boucher for his 10th goal of the season. The sophomore from Quebec was quick to give all the credit to his two linemates.
“The line is really easy to fit into,” Boucher said. “Hristovski and Mills are great players, and if you get open they’ll find you. And luckily I was able to finish it off.”
Boucher not only anchored the offense but was also a force on defense, leveling Wildcat player after Wildcat player throughout the contest. Taylor explained that Boucher’s tough style of play may not land him on SportsCenter anytime soon but gets the job done nonetheless.
“There is nothing subtle about his game,” Taylor said. “He is very fast, physical and gets himself in position [for shots]. A lot of his goals won’t make the highlight reel, but he goes where the goals are scored.”
Boucher’s defensive play was symbolic of an impressive overall effort by the Bulldog squad. The Wildcats were carrying momentum from last weekend, when they beat and tied No. 6 Vermont on back-to-back nights.
But the Elis showed no signs of intimidation, keeping the Wildcat offense in check throughout the game. In fact, it was the Elis who dominated play in the final two periods, only to be stopped by a sensational Pietrasiak. The New Hampshire goalie used his body and his glove to deny a slew of Yale breakaways and one-timers.
Yale’s performance was a far cry from last year’s contest between the two teams, in which the Wildcats bullied the Elis en route to an 8-2 blowout win in New Hampshire. Last night’s game not only illustrates Yale’s recent solid play, but also serves as a reminder of how far the Bulldogs have come since last season’s disappointing campaign.
Richards said that despite the loss, the Elis can take many positives from the game.
“This shows that we can play with top teams,” he said. “Just last month we played a similar team [in] Minnesota-Duluth and got smoked, 9-1. But we’ve improved a lot as a team and we can play.”