The No. 15 Yale men’s hockey team has always bounced back when it needed it most this season, and the Elis did it again over the weekend by winning two decisive league games.
After several difficult weeks of league games, the Bulldogs (16–10–3, 12–9–1 ECAC) sprang back in dramatic fashion with a 4–3 overtime win over the Colgate Raiders and a 2–1 defeat of the Cornell Big Red in their final regular season games to finish with the third seed in ECAC standings. They are just one point above the unranked Union Dutchmen and have secured a bye in the first round of ECAC playoffs.
“We were able to get out to great starts in the first period, outplaying both teams significantly,” captain and the team’s second leading-scorer Andrew Miller ‘13 said.
With only 2.5 seconds left in overtime against the Raiders, top penalty-killer Josh Balch ’13 slammed home his second game-winner of the year and his second goal of his senior campaign.
“Letting up three unanswered against Colgate, we never seemed to waiver and were confident we could get the win,” leading scorer Kenny Agostino ‘14 said.
In addition to earning a bye in the playoffs, the seniors on the Elis’ squad lined up on the blue line for the last time during senior weekend.
“It felt surreal playing my last regular season game yesterday. Standing on the blue line before the game with the other seniors was an experience I will never forget,” forward Antoine Laganiere ’13 said. “The fact that we won made it even better.”
In both contests this weekend, the Bulldogs jumped out in front right from the start.
Against the Raiders (14–16–4, 6–13–3), Miller scored an early power play goal to put the Elis up 1–0 just under five minutes into the game. When facing the Big Red (12–14–3, 8–11–3 ECAC), leading-scorer Kenny Agostino ’14 popped in a goal just over six minutes into the match up to give the Bulldogs an early lead.
In both the Colgate and Cornell games, the opposition was able to tie the game, with the Raiders able to claim the lead, but only for a short while. The Elis maintained their composure and fought their way back for the win both nights.
The power play also played a key role in the Elis’ wins. Miller’s early power play goal gave the Bulldogs the advantage right away against the Raiders, while a third period man-up goal from Stu Wilson ’16 lifted the Elis over Cornell. In both games, the Bulldogs went one-for-two on the power play while staying mentally strong and allowing no power play opportunities to Cornell on Saturday.
Going into the playoffs with a three-game winning streak is certainly a boost for the Bulldogs, and the mental toughness that they displayed over the weekend bodes well for the post-season.
“I think everyone is feeling fairly confident with the way we are playing as a group,” Laganiere said. “To win the last three games in dramatic fashion shows once again that our mental toughness is where it needs to be going into the playoffs.”
The Elis will have some time to rest and hone their game even more before carrying the momentum from the wins the past two weekends into playoffs due to earning a first-round bye.
The Bulldogs will next lace up the skates for a best of three series between Friday Mar. 15 and Sunday Mar. 17 against the second-highest remaining seeded team coming out of the first round of playoffs. The Elis will either play Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, Princeton, Brown, Clarkson, St. Lawrence or Colgate.