MEN’S HOCKEY: Yale doesn’t settle versus Pioneers

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Photo by Jennifer Cheung.

The Elis took a break from ECAC play this weekend, but the No. 9 Yale men’s hockey team did not take the night off against Sacred Heart.

Led by captain Jesse Root ’14, the Bulldogs (4–1–2, 2–0–2 ECAC) skated to a comprehensive 5–1 win over Sacred Heart (2–8–0, 1–3–0 AHA).

“I really liked the way we played tonight,” said head coach Keith Allain ’80. “We want to play fast and to play fast you have to move the puck and move your feet and I thought as the game wore on we did a really good job at that. That tempo was hard to play against.”

From the opening faceoff, the Elis played a fast and physical game. A steal by Root led to Yale’s first goal. His initial shot on goal was denied by Pioneer goaltender Alex Vazzano, but Root put away his own rebound to give Yale an early 1–0 lead.

Sacred Heart responded before Root’s goal could be announced, tallying on their powerplay just 25 seconds later. Junior forward Ben Lake found some space and buried his shot in off the iron to tie the game.

Yale could not find another goal in the period despite two power-play opportunities and nine shots. Vazzano looked shaky in net, but he made eight saves and profited from 11 blocked shots from his teammates.

The Bulldogs closed out the game in the second, peppering the Pioneers’ net with 16 shots and scoring three goals.

“In the first period we weren’t skating very well, but in the second period we started moving our feet more and that really helped us out,” defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 said. “We were able to put the puck in the back of the net because of our hard work.”

Center Stu Wilson ’16 broke the deadlock and put Yale ahead for good, scoring a power-play goal at 9:08 in the second.

Just over two minutes later, right wing Kenny Agostino ’14 scored a highlight reel goal, his first of the year, playing the role of bar-down-bandito at 11:20 with his backhanded shot that went in off the crossbar to make it a 3–1 lead.

“He’s a great player and he makes great plays, that’s what we expect out of him,” Obuchowski said.

Forward Trent Ruffolo ’15 then got his second point of the night, scoring after a play from Carson Cooper ’16. Cooper grabbed his own rebound and slid the puck across the crease, where Ruffolo was waiting to tap the puck in for a 4–1 Yale lead with just seconds remaining in the period.

Goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 made his fourth start of the season and was forced into a several smart saves in the second period to deny the Pioneers on all seven of their shots. While Allain did not name Lyon the full-time starter, insisting the goaltending situation is still day-to-day, he added that Lyon played very well against Sacred Heart.

Although there were fewer goals, the third period was nonetheless exciting.

The referees initially gave Agostino another goal at 14:10, but the officials overturned the goal. However, Yale scored 29 seconds later, on the power play after intricate passing. Obuchowski found winger Mike Doherty ’17 down low, who slid the puck across to Root on the crease. Root’s initial shot was saved, but he gathered the rebound and put his second attempt in the back of the net for his second goal of the game.

The third period ended without any further scoring. Vazzano finished the game with 37 saves in the loss.

The Bulldogs went two for seven on power-play opportunities and killed off two of three penalties in the win. The Elis’ extra man unit has not been very efficient this season, posting a .189 average thus far, but it looked good on Saturday night. The penalty kill has fared better, killing off .759 of every opportunity.

“[The power play] has been an area we have been spending a lot of time on and we haven’t gotten the results that we would have liked,” Allain said. “Hopefully this is the sign of things to come on the power play and penalty kill as well.”

Lyon posted 22 saves in his first win of the season. Offensively, eight different Bulldogs tallied points. The Elis’ top line of Root, two goals, Agostino, one goal, and Doherty, two assists, posted a +4 collective rating.

The Bulldogs will hit the road and head back to ECAC play with games against Colgate and Cornell next weekend. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. in Hamilton, N.Y. on Friday for the Elis’ first game of the weekend.

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