An offensive power outage hit the men’s hoceky team at Ingalls rink this weekend, and the Elis limped to a pair of defeats against conference foes.
Yale (8–9–2, 5–6–1 ECAC) dropped below .500 for the first time in four seasons by dropping games to Union and RPI. The defeats continued the team’s recent slide into sixth place in the conference. Over their past 11 games, the Elis are 3–7–1 and have gone 0–3–1 over the past two weekends. At this point, the team’s only chance of going to the NCAA tournament is to secure an automatic bid by winning the ECAC postseason tournament, a feat the Elis accomplished last year with a decisive 6–0 victory over Cornell in the championship game. In order to claim the ECAC title, Yale will need to step up its game and head into the conference playoffs with some momentum.
“We have 11 games left,” captain Brian O’Neill ’12 said in an interview with the New Haven Register. “At this point, we know what we need to do. Everyone has to look in the mirror and bring it every night.”
On Friday night, the Elis fell 3–1 to No. 12 Union (13–6–6, 7–3–3). The Bulldogs had defeated the Dutchmen by a comfortable 4–0 score on Nov. 12 during a road trip. But since then, the two teams’ destinies have diverged. Union has gone 8–3–3 and climbed to No. 12 in the national polls, whereas the Elis have gone 4–8–1 and fallen out of the national rankings.
Head coach Keith Allain ’80 said he was not happy with Yale’s performance on Friday night.
“I thought we had a good first period,” Allain said. “I thought we lost our way in the second; then I thought we battled in the third, but we weren’t good enough to win the hockey game, so it was not a step forward for us, that’s for sure.”
Two moments in particular turned the tide of the game for the Elis. The first came with about five minutes remaining in the first period. Just after defenseman Kevin Peel ’12 tied the game at one, the Bulldogs went on the power play. But instead of putting the man advantage to good use, the Elis allowed a shorthanded goal to Union forward Daniel Carr to give the Dutchmen a lead they would not relinquish.
The second pivotal moment came early in the middle frame. Forward Kenny Agostino ’14 was awarded a penalty shot after he was brought down from behind during a one-on-one with the keeper. As he took the penalty, Agostino deked left but was stuffed by keeper Troy Grosenick in his attempt to bring the puck across the crease and finish on the right side of the net.
The sophomore Union goalkeeper, first in the nation in save percentage and goals-against average, was solid in the net for the Dutchmen. He saved 29 out of 30 shots and came up big on several would-be-promising Yale chances. Allain said after the game that the Union defense was due as much credit as Grosenick for Union’s win.
“He’s good [in net],” Allain said. “His team plays really well in front of him. They make it hard to get the second shots. When we were playing well, we got some pucks to the net and there were some rebounds, but the defenders make you really work to get a stick on those pucks.”
On the Elis’ side of the ice there was a new face in the net. Nick Maricic ’13 started for the first time this season and made 33 saves on 36 shots. Allain said he was pleased with Maricic’s performance and remarked that he thought the California native improved as the game went on.
Union opened up the scoring seven minutes into the game when Simpson flicked an unexpected wrist shot from the right side of the net that caught Maricic off guard on the near post.
But on Saturday night Jeff Malcolm ’13 came back in net for the Bulldogs as they returned to Ingalls for a matchup with RPI. Although they fell to the Engineers 2–1 the Elis looked much better on the ice than they had the previous night and outshot RPI by a 46–18 margin.
“I was real proud of the way we played,” Allain said. “I thought we had a great start, and I thought we dominated the second and third periods. I thought we deserved to win tonight.”
Although Union’s Grosenick appeared to be the goalie to watch heading into the weekend, it was RPI’s Bryce Merriam who stood out the most. The Bulldogs offensive assault was turned away time and again by Merriam, who recorded 45 saves that night. He was particularly brilliant in the third period and stopped a few pucks that appeared to be headed for the back of the net. In spite of his performance, Merriam deflected praise onto his teammates after the game.
“We had some big blocked shots at the end of the game that might have even bailed me out, so props to the guys on the ice,” Merriam said.
Although Merriam looked impenetrable all night, forward Kevin Limbert ’12 found a chink in his armor with about two minutes remaining in the game. With the Elis down 2–0 and scrambling to get back in the competition, Limbert wound up for a powerful shot but mishit it and put a dribbler past a surprised Merriam.
After two scoreless periods for both sides, the Engineers broke through about six minutes into the third period. Forward C.J. Lee intercepted a pass near mid-ice and slid the puck over to a waiting RPI forward, Marty O’Grady, who deposited it for a 1–0 lead.
“Tonight we played average, but we found ways to win,” RPI head coach Seth Appert told the News. “I thought our guys exhibited a lot of heart in the third period. It wasn’t pretty, and it was quite ugly at times, but I thought there was a lot of ‘want to’ in terms of trying to play the right way.”
The Elis will take to the ice again next weekend when they travel to Harvard and Dartmouth for an Ivy League doubleheader.