In their final matchup against the Harvard Crimson this season, the Yale Bulldogs completed their three-game season sweep of their archrivals with a 3–0 win on home ice. The shutout was also notable as goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 picked up his seventh career clean sheet, a school record.
“It was a really great college hockey game,” head coach Keith Allain said. “I thought we played well to get the win. You’re a hard team to beat when you’re a hard team to score against.”
Early in the first period, the Bulldogs repeatedly succumbed to Harvard’s physical pressure and were unable to get many shots off. As the match got underway, both teams applied strong defensive pressure, allowing a myriad of shots but few quality looks.
The Elis also struggled to control the puck on their offensive breakaways, allowing the Crimson to pluck a few easy steals in the first 20 minutes of play. However, Lyon’s strong performance in the net turned away several quality Crimson looks.
Yale, on the other hand, settled for a few outside slap shots that Harvard’s Steve Michalek had little trouble turning away. Despite this, the Elis still created several quality looks, including a John Hayden ’17 pass that skipped swiftly across the front of Harvard’s goal, narrowly missing its target. Though neither team shot particularly well early in the match, Harvard dominated in terms of the caliber of its offensive looks, but was frustrated by Yale’s typical brand of hard-hitting and coordinated defense.
Lyon finished the first period with eight saves compared to Michalek’s four. Yale attempted 23 shots in the first period with only four on goal, while Harvard shot 15 times with eight drawing Lyon’s efforts.
“Our goal is to play hard physical defense and keep them to the outside,” defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 said.
As the second period began, Yale tightened up its offensive efforts, taking better care of the puck and communicating well on the break. For several stretches, the Elis set themselves up deep in the Harvard half. Finally, in the third minute of the new period, Yale struck as Hayden found Stu Wilson ’16 for the Eli’s first score. Wilson beat Harvard’s Michalek high and to the right with a breakaway strike.
After Wilson notched the game’s first score, tempers began to flare and the match became more physical, culminating in a short scuffle on Yale’s defensive end minutes after the first goal. Penalties also saw an uptick as both the Elis and Crimson began to play an even more aggressive and physical game. Both squads tried to press power play advantages, but to little avail as the dueling Ancient Eight defenses clamped down on nearly every offensive effort.
Harvard was forced to settle for some tough outside shots, while the Elis began to take control of the game, moving their offense with precision on Harvard’s side of the ice. However, Michalek and the Harvard defense played with poise and took away almost all of Yale’s scoring chances. Despite the efforts of the Crimson, however, Hayden added his name to the score sheet with a late goal at the 18:38 mark of the period, beating a punishing Harvard defense for his second point of the night. The Elis went into the second intermission with an 18–13 shots on goal lead and, most importantly, a 2–0 advantage despite poor offensive production in the first period.
“After the first intermission we got back to the room and said we just needed to play our game,” O’Gara said. “I think because it was a rivalry game there were some jitters, but we really tightened up the screws and came back.”
Down by two goals, the Crimson entered the third period firing shots on goal, but Yale’s defense continued to exert pressure and stifle all chances. With both teams on an emotional edge given the magnitude of the game, tempers began to fire up again in the final 20 minutes as shoving matches broke out at stoppages in play early on in the period. This resulted in a series of roughing penalties, including one on Harvard’s star forward, Jimmy Vesey.
“Scuffles and stupid penalties after the whistle are something we talk about,” defenseman Mitch Witek ’16 said. “When you take one you’re going to hear about it when you come back to the bench.”
Despite some desperate efforts from the Crimson, and several near goals, Lyon held on between the pipes, finishing the game with 24 saves. As the clock began to wind down, and Yale’s defensive strategy wore upon the Harvard offense. With just 1:36 left, forward Cody Learned ’16 put the game on ice, securing the Yale win with an empty net goal.
With the win, the Elis moved into a tie for third place in the ECAC with Harvard. Their next game, against Dartmouth, starts at 7 p.m. at Ingalls Rink.