The No. 6/7 men’s hockey team began its season with a pair of games in the Garden State over the weekend at the Liberty Invitational Tournament. The Bulldogs (1–1–0, 0–0–0 ECAC) opened with a 4–1 loss to Brown (2–0–0, 0–0–0 ECAC) but rebounded with a 3–2 win against Princeton (1–1–0, 0–0–0 ECAC). The event was held at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
While both of Yale’s games were against ECAC opponents, the matchups were played as non-conference games and thus only counted towards the Bulldogs’ overall record. The Elis started the tournament on Friday versus Brown. Rookie goalkeeper Alex Lyon ’17 made his first appearance for Yale in a regular season game along with three of his classmates, forwards John Hayden ’17, Mike Doherty ’17 and Frankie DiChiara ’17.
“The tournament is always good competition and useful for us moving forward,” defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 said in a message to the News. “It’s nice to play against quality opponents because you cannot recreate the level of competition in practices and it’s good to get freshmen acclimated to the ECAC competition.”
Yale started strong against Brown, recording 11 shots in a scoreless first period. The Elis broke the deadlock on the power play with just over five minutes gone in the second period. After Brown took a five-minute major for a hit from behind on forward Matt Beattie ’16, DiChiara found Stu Wilson ’16 alone on the goal line, where the sophomore was able to light the lamp with a wrist shot that snuck just inside the far post.
The Bulldogs’ early lead was undone by a series of penalties in the second period. After forward Charles Orzetti ’16 was whistled for hooking — a type of penalty — the Bears tied the game just 11 seconds into their man-advantage opportunity. Lyon had amassed 14 saves before Brown’s eventual breakthrough.
Yale and Brown traded opportunities until the Bears scored the go-ahead goal with four minutes gone in the third. Forward Mark Naclerio, who had tied the game on the power play in the second, notched his second tally of the night with a redirection that evaded Lyon’s reach.
Despite limiting Brown to five shots on net for the remaining 16 minutes, the Bulldogs could not find the back of the net. The Bears’ goalkeeper, Marco Del Filippo, had 12 third period saves, shutting the door on any potential equalizer.
Brown scored a third unanswered goal at 12:51 to make the score 3–1 and put the contest effectively out of reach for the Elis. With just over a minute and a half remaining, the Bears would add another goal on an empty net after Lyon had been pulled for an extra skater.
Lyon finished with 27 saves on 30 shots in his collegiate regular season debut.
“I definitely give credit to Brown for playing well, but especially after seeing our effort on Saturday, I think we could have given a lot more in the first game,” defenseman Mitch Witek ’16 said. “Knowing our potential, I think we have the power to win every game and I think we need to have that mentality moving forward.”
Yale scored just three minutes into the contest when Beattie gathered a Witek pass and skated into the offensive zone. Beattie, a New Jersey native, released a low wrist shot at the top of the left circle that found the netting.
The Bulldogs would double their lead just over three minutes later after a series of passes that connected four of the six Yale players on the ice. Obuchowski found forward Carson Cooper ’16, who skated into the zone before passing to linemate Trent Ruffolo ’15. The junior fired towards the Tigers’ net, where Nicholas Weberg ’15, waiting on the crease, redirected the shot past Princeton goaltender Sean Bonar.
Shortly after, Yale was whistled for three straight penalties, forcing the Bulldogs to play a man down for most of the remainder of the first period. The Tigers pounced on the second of their man-up opportunities with a one-timer at 14:42 to halve the deficit.
Midway through the second period, Yale scored the eventual game-winning third goal thanks to a brilliant effort from Wilson. The forward, who earned a spot on the All-Tournament team, was on the ice helping to kill a Princeton power play after defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 was sent to the box for cross-checking. After pressuring a Princeton player in the Tigers’ defensive end, Wilson won the puck and skated around a defenseman before finding Weberg who finished off the pass to earn Yale a 3–1 lead.
The goal, Weberg’s second of the game, firmly put the Elis in the driving seat. Princeton forced Spano into just two saves in the second period and could not muster any opportunities against a resolute Yale team.
Princeton regrouped after the second intermission and put pressure on the Bulldogs in the final 20 minutes. The Tigers forced Spano into 11 saves but could not break through until 19:52 with a two-man advantage — Princeton had both a power play opportunity and an empty net. While Princeton narrowed the difference to one goal, the Bulldogs were able to safely see out the final eight seconds and etch their first win of the season in the record books.
“I thought our level of competition against Princeton was the difference in the two games,” captain and forward Jesse Root ’14 said. “We played with desperation and intensity and that needs to be our mindset every single game.”
Saturday night’s effort marked a significant turnaround from the Elis’ previous game against Brown. The Bulldogs dominated almost all facets of the game and secured a 30–24 advantage in shots. Wilson and Weberg were the top two stars of the game, and Root dominated the faceoff circle by going 11–14 in addition to tallying four shots.
The Bulldogs open their conference slate with four straight ECAC contests, a stretch that will begin with the Elis hosting St. Lawrence at Ingalls Rink on Friday.