In its first NCAA action of the season, Yale impressed in a tight win over a skilled Princeton squad and defeated UConn to capture the Liberty Invitational Championship.
Having fallen to the University of Alberta in pre-conference competition, the Elis looked to bounce back in the weekend’s tournament, hosted at Newark’s Prudential Center. In their first match against the Tigers, the Elis played in a dramatic overtime clash that saw Ryan Hitchcock ’18 score the game-winning shootout goal after the two Ivy League squads skated to a hard-fought 2–2 draw.
Yale opened up the scoring midway in the first period when John Hayden ’17 took the lead for the Bulldogs, taking advantage of one of six Yale power play opportunities. Hayden deftly flipped in a backhanded shot while pressured by a Tiger defender, giving the Bulldogs the sort of comfortable start that many expected against the Tigers, who finished last in the ECAC just a season ago. However, Princeton quickly equalized through a goal by David Hallisey goal in the 11th minute. Shocking a touted Yale squad, the game went into the first intermission knotted at one with Princeton and holding a 14–11 shot advantage.
“On Friday we faced a little adversity. Any time you’re down, it’s a critical moment, and we did well,” goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 said.
Late in the second period, Princeton took the lead, with Eric Robinson scoring off of a rebounding shot. Despite some stellar Yale shooting in the period, Princeton’s Colton Phinney, through the virtue of brilliant goalkeeping, kept Yale out until the third period. In the seventh minute of the match’s final 20, forward Mike Doherty ’17 equalized for Yale, forcing the game into overtime and allowing Yale to capture its shootout win.
“Our defensemen were outstanding this weekend. We came into the weekend expecting to win, and we did, but there’s always room for improvement,” Lyon said.
In the championship match of the Liberty Invitational, Yale faced off against the UConn Huskies, who had also advanced to the final stage of the tournament through a close shoot-out win.
Yale pulled out their second tight victory of the weekend, defeating the Huskies 2–1 to capture the tournament crown.
“Wins don’t come easy in college hockey,” Ryan Obuchowski ’16 said. “Sometimes you just need to grind it out to the end.”
Yale certainly ground out a tight win. However, the match had a smooth start. Just four minutes into the first period, Yale took the lead through a Frankie DiChiara ’17 goal. The Elis doubled their lead soon after DiChiara’s opener, taking a 2–0 lead early in the first period when forward Cody Learned ’16 beat Rob Nichols for his first goal of the season.
Though Yale’s offense started off red hot, its production faltered later in the game, and it was up to the defense to see the win through. Yale’s two goals in the first period were its only scores all game, and the Huskies out-shot the Bulldogs 33–24. Nevertheless, strong Yale defending conceded only one goal midway through the second period, allowing the Elis to hold on to their narrow lead and complete a perfect weekend in Newark, starting their season on a high note.
“It’s not easy having a late start to the season due to Ivy League rules,” Hayden said. “But we prepared well, and it showed in both games. We could have produced more goals against Princeton, and that’s something to work on going forward. But against UConn, we maintained discipline, stuck to our systems, and it paid off.”
Doherty added that the team’s goal for the season was to win several championships, the Liberty Invitational being just the first.
Yale’s next match comes against Clarkson University on Friday, Nov. 7, at Ingalls Rink.