David Weller

While the Yale men’s hockey team never trailed en route to two season-opening wins a week ago, the Bulldogs were forced to claw out of holes on both Friday and Saturday to earn a hard-fought three points in their first weekend of ECAC Hockey play.

The No. 9 Elis (3–0–1, 1–0–1 ECAC) opened their conference schedule at No. 6 Harvard (3–0–1, 3–0–1), where the second goal of the night for forward Joe Snively ’19 with 35.8 seconds remaining in regulation led Yale to a 2–2 tie with the Crimson. The next night, Yale came back from a 2–0 deficit at Dartmouth (1–0–3, 1–0–3) for a 4–2 victory.

“I think in the long run, [the test at Harvard] will be good for us,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “But it’s not something you wish for.”

Though Yale took four of six meetings from Harvard during the 2014–15 season, the Crimson beat the Bulldogs when it mattered most. Harvard knocked the Elis out of the ECAC Hockey tournament in the deciding game of the schools’ quarterfinal series, with Harvard’s All-American forward Jimmy Vesey scoring the game-winning goal in the thriller’s second overtime.

The stage was thus set for the schools’ first matchup of the new season, and a sellout crowd of 3,095 that included U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ’66 packed into the Bright-Landry Hockey Center to see the game.

It did not take long for the rivals to renew acquaintances: Harvard forward Sean Malone pushed forward John Hayden ’17 into Crimson defender Clay Anderson following an offsides call 37 seconds into the game, sparking a shoving match at the contest’s very first stoppage.

“I think all the times we played them last year built up a rivalry,” forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 said before the game. “Playing the same people so many times creates some dislike.”

After scoring 12 total goals in two games the previous weekend, Harvard dominated puck control for most of the first period, outshooting the Elis 18–8 by the first intermission. Goalkeeper Alex Lyon ’17 denied the period’s best scoring chance for either team, stonewalling the close shot of Harvard’s Colin Blackwell with his left pad eight minutes in.

But momentum shifted early in the second period. After the Bulldogs killed off a Harvard power-play chance six minutes into the frame without allowing a single Crimson shot, the Yale offense started to take control.

The Bulldogs’ efforts were rewarded soon thereafter. A loose puck in front of Harvard’s net eventually rattled around to Snively, who raced across the slot and slid a backhand shot past the outstretched pad of Harvard goalkeeper Michael Lackey, who was making his first collegiate start.

“[Being able to turn the momentum] is a testament to the maturity of our locker room,” captain and defender Mitch Witek ’16 said. “No one got rattled, everyone just stuck to our plan. It started to bounce the right way for us.”

Though Yale continued its control over the remainder of the period — the Bulldogs would outshoot the Crimson 12–5 over the second, and Kerry, a former Yale junior varsity player, described the Elis as having “shifts where they were in complete control” — Harvard responded with a goal of its own before the frame was over. A long slapshot off the stick of Harvard forward Luke Esposito appeared to deflect off defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 before ending up behind Lyon, evening the score at one with about five minutes left in the period.

The third period was closely fought, and neither side yielded much over its first 14 minutes. But Harvard broke the stalemate at that point, taking a 2–1 lead courtesy of an even-strength tally from Crimson forward Tyler Moy. Following a battle along the boards in the Harvard offensive zone, the puck came out to the junior, who skated towards center ice and beat Lyon low to the goalie’s stick side.

A flurry of Bulldog offense in the next few minutes yielded no equalizer, and Allain was forced to pull Lyon with under a minute left. After Lackey saved and held an Eli shot with just 41 seconds remaining, the Yale coach called his lone timeout.

“‘Get a drink, take a breath,’” Allain said he told his players during the stoppage. “The play that we ran [after the timeout] we had already worked on this week in practice. It was just a matter of making sure everyone understood their roles.”

Though Yale lost the faceoff in Harvard’s zone, Hayden was able to take the puck from behind the Harvard net and find Snively moving towards the action. He sent a quick pass across the slot to the freshman, who rifled a one-timer into the open near side to even the score at 2–2.

It was the fourth time Snively had lit the lamp on the year in just 10 shots on goal.

“I knew [Hayden] was going to come around the net and throw it either at my feet or across, so I knew a puck would come out there sometime,” Snively said. “He put it right on my tape. I couldn’t ask for a better pass.”

A relatively uneventful five-minute overtime, in which Snively had the only shot on goal for either team, closed out the matchup.

Yale managed to keep Vesey off the score sheet and limited the North Reading, Massachusetts native to only three shots in the contest, and Lyon and the strong defense in front of him kept a Crimson offense that entered the contest averaging six scores per game to just a pair of goals.

In a postgame ceremony, Snively was awarded the Tim Taylor Cup as the most outstanding player in the first Harvard–Yale men’s hockey game of the season.

“It’s pretty special to see a freshman come in and contribute right away,” Hayden said. “Obviously [Snively] is a great player and it showed in the first three games.”

The Elis then headed up to Hanover, New Hampshire, on Saturday for their second ECAC Hockey game, a showdown with a Dartmouth team that had lost 7–0 and 5–2 against the Crimson the prior week.

Despite the lopsided losses the previous weekend, the Big Green jumped on Yale early, scoring once in the first minute and again later in the first period to take a 2–0 lead. The opening was emblematic of the ongoing first-period struggles for the Elis, who have been outshot 55–35 in the opening frames of their first four games.

But that was all the scoring that Yale’s defense would yield, as Lyon turned away the final 22 shots he faced over the last 44 minutes of the game.

The Bulldogs both began and capped their comeback on the power-play, scoring first midway through the second period. With just one second remaining on Yale’s third man advantage of the game, forward Stu Wilson ’16 knocked a bouncing, loose puck in front of the goal past several white-and-green jerseys and into the net.

Forward Chris Izmirlian ’17 tied the score before the period was over with help from a long assist by forward Mike Doherty ’17, sending the teams to the locker rooms for the second intermission even at two goals apiece.

Thirteen minutes into the third period and with the Elis again on the power-play, Doherty took a shot that Dartmouth netminder Charles Grant stopped, but the puck deflected off him straight into the air. Hitchcock took a swipe at the airborne puck and connected, poking it past Grant and giving Yale a 3–2 edge. After the play was reviewed for potential high-sticking, the call on the ice was upheld.

“Hitchcock’s goal was huge for us,” Witek said. “It was a tight checking game and we really needed to cash in on the power-play. It was a big momentum shift, exactly what we needed at the time.”

Later in the final period, replay continued to be unfriendly to the home team. Though Dartmouth managed to send a puck by Lyon with just over two minutes remaining, the officials ruled that Big Green forward Corey Kalk had kicked it before it crossed the line, a call that was confirmed by another video review. Thirty seconds later, Yale forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 sealed victory for the Elis with an empty-netter.

By shutting out the Big Green on the power-play, the Bulldogs extended their streak of successful penalty kills to eight. Yale and Harvard are the only two squads in the country that have yet to allow an opposing power-play goal.

“We’re a defensive squad, and you need a good [penalty kill] if you’re going to win some games,” Doherty said.

With their first weekend of conference games behind them, the Bulldogs will again hit the road for their final pair of away games before their home opener on Nov. 20. They face RPI on Friday and Union College on Saturday.

Hope Allchin contributed reporting.