The first ever Yale-Harvard ice hockey game was played in New York City in 1900, with the Bulldogs pulling out the 5–4 victory. The archrivals returned to New York City 238 matchups later, and Yale once again emerged victorious.
A 3:06 stretch during the second period proved to be the nail in the coffin for Harvard (5–8–3, 2–6–3 ECAC), as the Bulldogs (8–3–4, 3–2–3) scored three times in that span on their way to a 5–1 victory in front of 15,524 at Madison Square Garden.
“We had a lull in the second period and [Yale] made us pay for it,” Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey said. “That’s what good teams do.”
The bright lights of the Garden seemed not to bother the Bulldogs, who punched home the first score of the game just 4:23 into the action. Forward Mike Doherty ’17 helped force a Harvard turnover in its defensive zone and scored off an assist from forward Stu Wilson ’16.
But Harvard answered right back on a power play caused by a Kenny Agostino ’14 tripping penalty. Crimson center Luke Esposito, nephew of Rivalry On Ice ambassador and Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier, took control behind the net and passed to Vesey, who streaked in and one-timed the puck past Yale goaltender Alex Lyon ’17. The goal was Vesey’s 10th of the season and tied the score with 9:09 left in the first period.
Heading into the second period tied at one, the Bulldogs put the game away with three quick goals, the first coming 2:35 into the frame. Rivalry on Ice MVP Cody Learned ’16 earned his stripes with two of the three goals, but his first goal was something of an accident, coming off a long shot that deflected off Harvard goalie Raphael Girard’s pads and into the net.
“I was a little surprised [that it went in],” Learned said. “[But] Coach always tells us just get shots on net.”
A few minutes later, defenseman Gus Young ’14 stretched the Yale lead to 3–1. Doherty found some space across the Harvard blue line and lasered a cross-ice pass to Young, who fired it into the upper left corner of the net.
Before the crowd had settled down, the Elis netted another goal just 25 seconds later. Defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 took a shot that Girard blocked, but failed to cover up, and Learned knocked home the rebound for his second goal. The goal was also the last action Girard would see all game, as Harvard coach Ted Donato pulled him immediately after Learned lit the lamp.
The only other tally of the game came in the third period. Young was involved again, but this time as a facilitator. Following a Harvard deflection, Young redirected the puck from behind the goal to off the goaltender’s pads, and Agostino found the back of the net.
After the game, players and coaches alike praised the inaugural Rivalry on Ice event.
“Any time you get to play at a venue like this, it’s pretty cool,” Learned said.
Captain Jesse Root ’14 agreed, citing the support from the crowd as a factor in the Bulldogs’ victory.
Another crucial component of Yale’s victory was the strong play from Lyon between the pipes. The freshman netminder had 23 saves, including a number of important stops near the end of the first period when the game was still knotted at one.
“Alex did a fantastic job for us tonight,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “He grew as the game went on.”
Yale takes a road trip to New York next weekend to face No. 11 Clarkson and St. Lawrence.