Postseason play is over for the men’s hockey team this season after a shocking 8–2 loss to rival Harvard in Game 3 of the ECAC quarterfinals on March 11.
The Bulldogs (16–16–3, 10–10–2 ECAC) fell to Harvard (13–10–11, 8–5–9) in three games and squandered their only chance at a spot in the NCAA tournament. Because the team’s regular-season record did not warrant an at-large bid, failing to capture the ECAC title kept the Elis from their only other route to reach the NCAAs.
The quarterfinal matchup against Harvard was a true battle of endurance, and the Elis were not able to keep pace with the Cantabs throughout the second half of the three-game matchup. Harvard came in well-rested with a first-round bye in the tournament, whereas Yale was coming off a weekend of three games against Princeton.
Still, Yale battled it out into overtime for the first two games. The Elis took the first game 2–1 and lost the second by one goal in double overtime. But by Game 3, Yale had run out of steam, and Harvard handed the team a devastating 8–2 loss to end the series.
“We were so physically and emotionally invested in [Game 2] that coming to the rink the next night, I think we were just physically and mentally worn,” forward Kenny Agostino ’14 said. “We just looked like we ran out of gas that last game.”
Agostino was the hero of the opening victory with a goal about four minutes into the extra period. The New Jersey native has had a knack for clutch goals this season. Earlier in the year, Agostino gave Yale a 5–4 win over Dartmouth by scoring with only 34 seconds remaining. He then scored in the Bulldogs’ next contest against St. Lawrence with 35 seconds remaining to tie the game at three.
Agostino said a combination of luck and strong play from his teammates has led to his success late in games this season.
“I’ve been fortunate to get a couple of those goals, and a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time and getting some fortunate bounces,” he said. “Also, without Jesse Root [’14] driving the net, that overtime goal [against Harvard] wouldn’t have happened, so I have to give credit to my teammates.”
In Game 2, the two sides went to overtime for the second straight night. But there would be no hero for the Elis this time as Harvard defenseman Dan Ford scored halfway through the second overtime period to give the Crimson a 4–3 victory.
Yale had picked up an early lead in Game 2 and was in a great position to record a 2–0 sweep and advance to the semifinals. Colin Dueck ’13 and Chad Ziegler ’12 both recorded first-period goals and put Yale ahead 2–0 after 20 minutes of play.
But after holding Harvard’s No. 1 nationally ranked power play scoreless in four attempts during the first period, the Elis’ penalty kill unraveled in the second to hand the lead over to the Crimson. The Cantabs scored on three straight power plays over the course of about 25 minutes and, with about nine minutes left on the clock, took a 3–2 lead. Forward Antoine Laganiere ’13 said he noticed a different power play approach from Harvard in Game 2.
“After the first game they probably adjusted and I think on the power play they were trying to take more shots from the point,” he said. “We played a more defensive and conservative style and instead of trying to pass around and make the perfect play they just put the puck on net more and it worked.”
Although they were down 3–2, the Elis were not done fighting. For the second straight night, Yale got a late, dramatic goal, but this time it was from Laganiere. The Elis had pulled goalie Nick Maricic ’13 from the net and, with 27 seconds left, the move paid off. Laganiere put in a rebound off a Clinton Bourbonais ’14 shot as he fell to the ice in the slot.
The Bulldogs seemed to pick up steam in the two overtime periods and outshot the Cantabs 20–14. But Ford found the back of the net by corralling a rebound that nobody else could locate and firing the game-winner from the left circle.
“I don’t think anyone in the building knew where it was,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said in a press release after the game. “The puck got shot into a pile and it took half a second for it to come clear. It went right to the one guy who was facing the goal.”
But in the third and final game of the series, Yale was completely outskated. After grabbing a 1–0 lead early in the first period, the Elis fell apart and allowed six straight Harvard goals. Star forward Alex Killorn led the charge with two goals and two assists in that stretch. Laganiere found the net for the Bulldogs on a third-period power play, but by then the game and the series were far out of reach, as Harvard ran away with an 8–2 win.
The Bulldogs reached the quarterfinal matchup with Harvard by registering a 2–1 series win over Princeton (9–16–7, 6–12–4) in the opening round of the tournament the weekend before. The Blue and White outscored the Tigers 15–10 at Ingalls Rink, a statistic that belies the hard-fought nature of the series.
In Game 1, the Elis defended a 3–2 lead for the entire third period and barely fought off the Tigers to record a 4–2 win, with an Antoine Laganiere ’13 empty-netter finishing off the Tigers with a minute remaining.
The second game was another battle but went Princeton’s way as the Bulldogs fell just short in a 5–4 overtime loss. That game was marked by a wild third period — the Elis were down by two, but pulled back to tie the score twice with the help of three power-play goals and one shorthanded goal. The second comeback saw Yale, down 3–1 with eight minutes remaining, tally three goals to Princeton’s one to head into overtime with the game tied 4–4. Andrew Miller ’13 scored the game-tying goal on the power play with about two minutes remaining.
But the comeback effort exhausted the Elis as Andrew Calof scored for Princeton just 33 seconds into the first overtime period to send the series to Game 3.
After the disappointing end to Game 2, Yale stormed back in the deciding final game and recorded a 7–3 beatdown. Anthony Day ’15 scored twice, and Laganiere recorded a hat trick to lead the Bulldogs.
Agostino said Yale was confident heading into the series against Harvard following the win.
“We definitely felt good after Princeton,” Agostino said. “Whenever you can get that first series out of the way, you obviously feel good going forward.”
In the ECAC semifinals, Harvard went on to upset Cornell with a 6–1 victory, while Union cruised past Colgate 6–2. In the championship game, Union won its first-ever ECAC postseason championship with a third-period comeback to record a 3–1 win against the Crimson.