The No. 17 Yale men’s hockey team fell 3–2 in overtime to No. 3 Boston University Friday, ending its season with a finish that was hard-fought and disappointing for the Bulldogs. Yale competed with the Terriers for the full 68 minutes of play but ultimately was not able to produce the goals necessary to overcome BU’s offense, which leads the country in goals per game behind freshman forward Jack Eichel.
The loss highlighted multiple themes that pervaded the 2014–15 season and will have a major impact on the Bulldogs next year. By losing very few seniors to graduation, Yale can hope to maintain its stellar defensive performance while improving upon a young offense that proved to be a liability this season.
Despite the loss in the stat book, goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 was impressive in net Friday, positioning himself well for nearly every BU opportunity in front of the net and also making multiple acrobatic saves with his glove and legs.
Lyon saved 92.9 percent of the 42 shots fired at him, nearly matching his season save percentage of 0.939 and helping the Elis kill all five Terrier power plays.
The consistently hot goaltender was critical in keeping the game close for all 68 minutes of play, and he was also a central reason that Yale was playing Friday in the first place.
The Baudette, Minnesota native currently leads the nation in three key statistics this season: save percentage (0.939), goals against average (1.62) and shutouts (7).
Against Harvard on Nov. 15, Lyon faced 35 shots and saved 34 of them, leading his team to a narrow 2–1 victory that proved to be key for the Bulldogs’ national ranking. Shutouts of 28 and 31 saves against Brown and Princeton, respectively, were two other examples of Lyon shutting down offenses throughout the season.
Regardless of whether the Bulldogs’ stellar defensive performance this year was more to the credit of Lyon or Yale’s defensemen, the Elis can likely look forward to continued strong defensive performance in the future.
Yale will get two more seasons behind Lyon and will also return five of the six defensemen who suited up on Friday. The Elis lose defenseman Tommy Fallen ’15, who graduates having played in the second-most games in Yale men’s hockey history, but will be led by rising senior defensemen Rob O’Gara ’16, Ryan Obuchowski ’16 and Mitch Witek ’16.
Adam Larkin ’18 and Nate Repensky ’18, who scored Yale’s first goal Friday, will also return to play for a defense that boasted the strongest performance in the nation this season.
The importance of the Elis’s defense, and of Lyon’s play on Friday, was highlighted by a lukewarm performance at the other end of the ice. Though Yale dominated offensively in the second period, particularly on the power play, its attack was largely stagnant in the other two frames.
Forward Frankie DiChiara’s ’17 goal that tied the score was one of just a few significant threats for Yale in the third and overtime periods. In fact, the Elis managed only four shots on net in those two periods of play, a sharp decline from the 13 that they fired on BU’s Matt O’Connor in the second period.
In all, Yale finished the season averaging 2.61 goals per game, good for just 38th out of the 59 teams in NCAA Division I. Forward Mike Doherty ’17 was the only Bulldog player to finish with goals in the double-digits (12), while Yale’s 2013 championship squad held four such players.
If Yale hopes to return to the glory days of that 2013 national championship, it will need a stronger team offensive performance in 2015–16.
Similar to its defensive situation, Yale’s attacking unit can look forward to maintaining continuity on its lines next season. Forward Trent Ruffolo ’15 is the only departing forward with more than 10 games played this year, while top scorers Doherty, DiChiara, Cody Learned ’16 and John Hayden ’17 will all return.
With improved play by these experienced leaders, as well as a similar performance by its dominant defense, Yale may be able to best its one-and-done performance from this season and boast a stronger showing in the 10th season of head coach Keith Allain ’80.