Yale’s No. 20 men’s hockey team (7–6–1, 4–3 ECAC) kicked off the second half of its season with a 1–1 showing at Ingalls Rink this weekend that featured the Bulldogs at their best and worst.
After falling to Quinnipiac in a 2–1 loss on Friday, the Elis bounced back Saturday night by thrashing Princeton 6–2. Although this weekend was the first time the Bulldogs have played conference games since before the start of the holiday break, the Elis have been in action four times since Christmas day. Prior to this weekend, the Bulldogs recorded 6–4 and 9–3 victories over a Russian touring team and Bentley College, respectively.
The loss to Quinnipiac on Friday could drop the Elis out of the national rankings for the first time this season. The Yale offense had an uncharacteristically slow night and recorded only 25 shots against Quinnipiac netminder Eric Hartzell.
“We allowed them to block 23 shots, and [we] missed the net on 19 other shots,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said in a Yale Athletics press release. “It’s hard to score goals with shot execution like that. We have to execute better and get shots through.”
Quinnipiac’s strong defensive effort kept the Elis off the board until captain and forward Brian O’Neill ’12 put away a power play goal about eight minutes into the third period, pulling the Elis within one. After a pass from the stick of center Andrew Miller ’13, O’Neill tucked the puck under a sliding Hartzell for his team-high tenth goal this year.
But O’Neill’s tally would prove too little, too late for the Bulldogs. The Bobcats took the lead at the end of a first period that saw Quinnipiac challenge Yale goalie Jeff Malcolm ’13 on several occasions. The Bobcats came close to scoring on two power plays, but were thwarted with five saves from Malcolm in total.
However, the third time would be the charm for the Bobcats. After Colin Dueck ’13 was put away for roughing, Quinnipiac blueliner Loren Barron hit the back of the net from the high slot for a 2–0 advantage.
“The three penalties in the early part of the game took some momentum away from us,” Allain saidin a press release to Yale Athletics. “We played ok, but not well enough to get a victory.”
But the Bulldogs picked up the pace on Saturday night, recording 49 shots en route to a 6-2 victory against Princeton.
“I was really pleased with the way we played [Saturday],” Allain said. “I thought we played okay [Friday], maybe hoping to win. Tonight we played like we were going to ensure that we were victorious. We were winning races, getting the puck to nice areas, and we went hard to the net.”
Although the Bulldogs controlled the run of play early in the first period, the Tigers struck first about nine minutes into the action. Malcolm knocked Princeton defenseman Michael Sdao’s attempt to a waiting Marc Hagel of Princeton, who fired a quick shot that beat Malcolm through the five-hole.
“It was an unfortunate start,” O’Neill said. “But I think that really sparked us even more, and we had the best part of our game after that goal, so I think it was a wakeup call for us which helped.”
Behind O’Neill, Yale kept pressing and responded a mere two minutes later. With a two-minute penalty expiring, Nicolas Weberg ’15 headed to the bench where Kenny Agostino ’14 quickly jumped on the ice. Within seconds of entering the offensive zone, Agostino emphatically finished a Miller offering to knot things up at one.
“We got 50 shots on net tonight, or close to it, and that was the big key,” O’Neill said. “We got a lot of pucks on net, a lot of traffic, and we got goals because of that.”
With the crowd roaring, the Elis continued to pepper the Princeton net with shots. Almost five minutes later, forward Trent Ruffolo ’15 picked up a loose puck in the Princeton zone and immediately fired a wrist shot that beat Princeton goalie Mike Condon for the Yale lead.
After the Bulldogs gained the 2–1 advantage, they did not look back. Kevin Limbert ’12 finished a rebound from a Chad Ziegler ’12 shot, and O’Neill scored on a power play for the eighth time this season on the way to a 4–1 Yale advantage.
But Princeton did not die easily. With about 14 minutes left in the game, Princeton pulled its goalie after a Yale penalty to create a two-man advantage. About two minutes later, defenseman Derrick Pallis put a weak wrist shot past Malcolm from the point.
However, Yale still put the game away with a goal from Miller and an empty-net finish from Ziegler.
After giving up 25 goals in the six games preceding break, the Bulldogs allowed only four goals in this weekend’s contests.
“Everyone is chipping in [on defense],” Allain said. “We’re playing good, solid, structured team defense.”
The Elis will take to the ice again next Friday and Saturday nights with trips to Clarkson and St. Lawrence.