After a game-winning overtime goal led to a thrilling Friday finish against Rensselaer, the No. 13 Yale men’s ice hockey team blew a 2–1 lead and allowed three third-period goals to lose to No. 4 Union 5–3 on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (12–7–4, 7–6–3 ECAC) now sit in sixth place in the conference, three points behind No. 9 Cornell and No. 14 Clarkson for fourth. In the PairWise rankings, which determine the NCAA Tournament field, the Elis are 18th, and only the top 16 teams get a spot in the bracket.
“I thought it was a great effort against RPI; it was great to come back and win it in overtime,” captain Jesse Root ’14 said. “Against Union, I think we played well in the second [period], but we didn’t play a full 60-minute game, and that’s what hurt us.”
Yale began its road trip by traveling to Troy, N.Y. to take on the Rensselaer Red Hawks (12–12–4, 6–7–3), but things got off to an inauspicious start when RPI’s Ryan Haggerty fired his ECAC-leading 22nd goal of the year past goalie Alex Lyon ’17 in the first period.
After defenseman Tommy Fallen ’15 evened the score with a long-range shot from near the blue line just a few minutes later, RPI again lit the lamp when Mike Zalewski outraced the Yale defenseman to the puck on a Bulldog power play and fired a slap shot past Lyon. The score put the Elis down 2—1 with 1:41 remaining in the first frame.
A scoreless second period meant that Yale needed a goal in the third period to nab at least a point, and the Bulldogs answered convincingly. Root kicked off a power play by winning a face-off and getting the puck back to Fallen, who skated to his right before unleashing a wrister past RPI goaltender Scott Diebold with 12:03 left.
“We matched up well against the way RPI defended [the power play],” Root said. “Tommy Fallen had a great shot for the second goal.”
In overtime, the Yale power play again excelled. Following a penalty early in extra time that gave the Bulldogs a man advantage, forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 received a pass in front of the goal. With his back turned to the goalie, he passed back to forward Mike Doherty ’17, who shot and found the back of the net for the game-winner just 59 seconds into overtime.
“It was a great feeling to be able to score the winner on the road,” Doherty said. “Stu [Wilson] hit Frank in front, who had great poise, and I was able to find some quiet ice in the slot and put a good shot on net.”
Saturday’s game was much more meaningful for the ECAC title race, as the Elis continued their road swing against the first-place Dutchmen (19–6–3, 13–3–0). Despite an early Union score, the Bulldogs tied it up on a goal from Friday’s hero, Doherty, just 6:19 into the period.
The goal tied Doherty for fourth on the team in points, a statistic made much more impressive given that he has missed the last three weeks due to an injury.
“I’ve had a lot of great linemates so far that make it that much easier,” Doherty said of his success. “The older guys made everyone feel comfortable and confident, and that has really helped me be able to contribute.”
Forward Kenny Agostino ’14 scored in the second period to put Yale up one, but Theo DiPauli answered right back for Union less than two minutes later. In the third period, three Dutchmen goals proved insurmountable, and forward Matthew Beattie’s ’16 goal with just 13 seconds left proved to be too little, too late.
The victory moved Union’s home winning streak to eight games and complicated matters for Yale. Though the Bulldogs seem to be right on the bubble for tournament qualification at the moment, each conference gets an automatic qualifying bid, and the Atlantic Hockey Conference currently has no team inside the top sixteen — meaning the Bulldogs may have to finish higher than 16th to make the tournament.
When asked about whether the team is thinking about the PairWise rankings, Root demurred.
“We’re really taking it one game at a time,” Root said. “Our focus is completely on Quinnipiac for Friday night.”
The game against archrival Quinnipiac on Valentine’s Day is a rematch of last year’s national championship game, won 4–0 by the Bulldogs in a rout. The puck will drop at 7:00 p.m.