M. HOCKEY | Too little, too late

mens_hockey_-_ncaa_loss_cahill
Photo by Brianne Bowen.

BRIDGEPORT — When Brian O’Neill ’12 was ejected 11:38 into the second period for an alleged hit to the head, the game was as good as over.

Minnesota-Duluth’s two goals during the ensuing five-minute major penalty lifted it to a 5–1 lead, and Yale (28–7–1) never recovered. The Elis’ 5–3 loss dashed their hopes of advancing to the Frozen Four and ended both the winningest season in program history and the collegiate careers of the most successful class ever to don Yale hockey jerseys.

“I certainly don’t want to take the jersey off for the last time,” said captain Jimmy Martin ’11. “It’s been an honor to play for the University. It’s got such a great hockey tradition, and it’s an honor for our class to be a part of that now.”

It was obvious as the clock ticked away on Yale’s defeat Saturday that Yale’s seniors did not want the night to end. Despite the commanding lead held by Duluth (24–10–6), Martin and his classmates made their presence felt at both ends of the ice.

Broc Little ’11 momentarily restored hope to a silent crowd with a power play goal eight minutes into the final stanza that made the score 5–2. Denny Kearney ’11 brought Yale within striking distance five minutes later with a goal of his own. Martin earned the primary assist on that goal, and he and defensive partner Mike Matczak ’11 remained physical forces throughout the period.

Put simply, the team’s nine seniors will leave big shoes to fill.

“It’s going to be very difficult to see them go,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I don’t think I’m prepared to eulogize them properly tonight, but it’s more than just the numbers. It’s their personalities, and the life that they’ve given Yale hockey, and what they’ve done for me personally. They’re an extremely special group.”

The leadership of the graduating class has boosted Yale hockey to its most successful season ever. Although the team fell in the national quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, it set a school record for wins and achieved the first national No. 1 ranking in Yale history. It captured the ECAC Tournament championship and came within a single point of the regular season title.

Martin, Little, Kearney, and goaltender Ryan Rondeau ’11 will all depart as the holders of individual school records. The class as a whole has won more games than any that preceded it. On Saturday, those numbers were no consolation for the team.

“Tonight was brutal,” Little said. “It was a fun four years and we had some success, but we wanted to play two more games. We thought we could do it.”

At the beginning of Saturday’s game, Yale did look capable of beating Duluth and advancing to its first Frozen Four since 1952. The Elis outshot their opponents by a 14–6 margin in the first period, but Duluth goalie Kenny Reiter shut the door and his team made the most of its few chances. Mike Connolly reversed an Eli advantage when he scored on a shorthanded two-on-one exactly two minutes before the end of the period.

The Duluth goals kept coming in a second period dominated by the referees’ whistles. The Elis entered the stanza trailing by a single goal and, seven penalties and 29 penalty minutes later, skated into the locker room down 5–1. None of those penalties affected the game more than the call on O’Neill.

Duluth had seized a 3–0 lead halfway through the second period. O’Neill brought the game back within reach when he one-timed a pass from Little just under the crossbar. But if the goal from the right winger sparked any Yale momentum, the referees promptly extinguished it.

Eight seconds after his goal, O’Neill leveled Duluth’s Jake Hendrickson with a hard open-ice hit. Whistles blew immediately, and soon O’Neill had been assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for contact to the head. Those watching from the press box said they never saw O’Neill make contact with Hendrickson’s head, and the hit looked clean on tape.

Asked about the call after the game, Allain left no doubt about his opinion of the call, and pointedly told reporters to “look at the tape, and tell me what you think.”

“I thought we had momentum, and then they gave Brian a five-minute penalty and kicked him out of the game,” Allain said. “[They] took our best player out of the game.”

Duluth scored two goals on the ensuing power play, including one after a penalty on Nick Jaskowiak ’12 put the Elis down two men. Despite Little’s and Kearney’s third period-efforts, Yale could not overcome the biggest deficit it had faced all season without its top scorer, and became the third of four No. 1 seeds to suffer early elimination from the tournament .

Even though Nick Maricic ’13 replaced Rondeau in the goal for the third period and turned aside everything he faced, Minnesota mustered all the defense it needed to clinch its first Frozen Four appearance since 2004. When the buzzer sounded on the game, and on Yale’s season, the Elis gave one final salute to the few Yale faithful who remained chanting “Let’s go Yale” in the student section until the end.

“It’s tough to put this in perspective at this point,” Matczak said, “It’s been an honor playing for this team. Unfortunately, we came up a minute short, but it was a hell of a ride.”

Comments

  • siouxchamp

    Let’s RE-CAP: ECAC brought the #1 seeded team (Yale) and the #1 nation’s ranked PowerPlay (Union), and “so-called” NHL caliber goaltending (RPI) to the NCAA tournament. The results? Yale was the “ONLY team to score a single goal in the tournament. Union did NOTHING, In fact Union couldn’t score a goal on a WCHA team that didn’t win (1) game in the WCHA tournament. Yale was lucky to made it past the first round and RPI got down right BLASTED by the Fighting Sioux! Have the SIoux stopped scoring yet? Haven’t checked recently.

  • siouxchamp

    Just puts a “Stamp” on the fact Yale was a VERY over ranked team and this conf. is a laughing joke to “anyone” living west of Ohio. I do have good news, though! Yale will get to play Colgate, Crest, and Sally’s bar league next year on their schedule, AGAIN. Go BULLFROGS! (comma)(comma)(comma)(comma). SMILES! GO SIOUX! We are Laughing at you, not with you! GO SIOUX.

  • coldy

    Get a life troll. You’re disrespecting the many lovely and amiable North Dakotans that I know.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    that’s bs siouxchamp, get off our boards. the refs stole this one from yale and everyone knows it. we put up a respectable performance despite some of the worst officiating I’ve ever seen at a hockey game. all due credit to minnesota duluth, but the refs were the true “winners” here.

  • jinjdkla

    @siouxchamp

    Don’t be jealous because you were too stupid to come to yale and ended in some third tier state school

  • yalefan3456

    If the refs had access to the tape, why didn’t they look at it?Or did they look at it? Why wasn’t this call contested and refs overridden??

  • trololololo

    The ejection was easily one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. I still have no idea what the ref was thinking there. He ruined the game as a spectacle by gifting UMD 5 minutes of powerplay and completely ruining the balance of our lines. Joke.

  • kbielski11

    Any chance of Yale proving how good they are was destroyed by a horrendous call which followed several other bad calls. We’ll never know if Yale had what it takes to win a national championship. Anyone who cheers for the WCHA only has to go back one year to see that Yale was capable. Any of you idiots remember when they beat last years North Dakota team? Ignorance truly is bliss. I’m sure Yale would line up any day anywhere to show their mettle. Moreover I’d like to see what the ref felt when he saw the video replay. I’d be willing to bet he’s sick over it! More replay is necessary as hockey is the fastest sport on the planet. This play proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt. As for you fighting sioux fans that probably can’t play a lick, you still haven’t beaten the top team in the country, YALE!

  • Mikelawyr2

    Four letters.

    Twenty, thirty years from now, when Siouxchamp has finished his last PBR in the fridge in the double-wide, the four letters on your resume will have taken you wherever you have hoped to go. Take heart. Hockey is a sport, a diversion. Life is . . . life.

    Noblesse oblige.

  • siouxchamp

    Yale should be happy, they won 1 game in the NCAA. Nobody I knew had Yale winning more than one single game on their brackets. The other good news, you don’t have to deal with Refs on the golf course! Start setting up your tee times Bullfrogs. GO ECAC Hockey (hehehe).

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    Comma splice!

  • uncommons

    what do you do when you win? drink!

    what do you do when you loose? drink more!

  • irish

    Calls in a game are going to happen, but an official must see the whole play before he decides to eject anyone from a game. The referee who was stationed near the Yale goal line some 60ft away from the play obviously saw the UMD player go down from (in my view) a perfect open ice hit. The UMD player came toward the blue line with his head down and O’Neill leveled him. From the video, O’Neill has one hand on his stick and clearly drove his shoulder into the UMD player. The hit was violent but legal. The referee then goes over to report what he perceived to be a penalty (charging at best??) and the linesman tells him it was a hit to the head and to give him 5 and eject the player. Who’s running this game the referee or the linesman?? Obviously, the referee was clearly out of position or didn’t see the whole play if he changed his call from a minor to a major with an automatic ejection based on not the other referees input but one of his linesmen. I like many other fans come to watch players play and not officials officiate. Penalties are part of the game and they always will be, but these guys as a crew were just horrible. They wanted to be the show and from the reaction from the crowd they got their wish. I’d be interested to know how many players were ejected during this NCAA post season. My guess would be just the one we saw last night. Yale Hockey, you guys had a great season, it’s just unfortunate that it had to end in such a controversial manner. Thanks for making this winter memorable!!

    Posted by irish on March 27, 2011 at 1:18 p.m.permalinksuggest removal..

  • Stiles11

    Not that I agree with siouxchamp, but comments like those by ‘jinjdkla’ and ‘Mikelawyr2′ occasionally make me wish I went to school with people from “some third tier state school.”

    Yale hockey is awesome, and we got jipped. But please stop giving other parts of Yale a bad name.

  • tjhotdogs

    @Stiles11 ditto.

    On a separate note—this article didn’t do the real story of this game justice. The call on Brian O’Neill was so bad, so blatantly inappropriate that the announcers couldn’t stop talking about it. That should have been the main theme of the article…not a brief mention at the bottom.

    By the way—at least we don’t go to UMD where they have to root for a team that dyed each others hair blonde (orange). How lame is that?

  • InterestedInBiology

    Yeah, it sucks that we lost, but FreddyHoneychurch, Mikelawyr2, and jinjdkla, you guys just make us all sound like the world’s biggest asses. Do us all a favor and STFU.

  • yale74

    The NCAA Coordinator of Hockey Officials is Frank Cole.
    email: nautip1@aol.com
    Need I say more.

  • tjhotdogs

    @yale74

    gracias.

  • dwvandy

    Yalies, explain me this:
    Brian O’Neill is ejected and requires “several stitches above the eye”, and UMD’s Hendrickson also has a visible mark on his forehead, seen clearly in the TV shot of the UMD bench, yet head to head contact is being denied?… Come on, do you know what deductive reasoning is? Botton line on O’Neill’s hit:
    1. Watch his feet. This is Charging.
    2. The puck is gone. This is Interference.
    3. Still denying head to head contact? With that many full speed strides you are risking an Intent to Injure call. This is also a major/game ejecton.
    UMD played a controlled, poised game and siezed what they earned. They ARE a very capable team. Yale’s season is over. Learn from it.