Just 10 minutes decided this weekend’s outcome for the Yale men’s hockey team, as a pair of overtime finishes led to opposing results and a two-point weekend during a conference road trip.
Despite outshooting Rensselaer (5–4–2, 4–0–2 ECAC) 43–19 on Friday, the Bulldogs (4–1–1, 2–1–1) suffered their first loss of the season, 3–2, to the ECAC Hockey dark horse, currently seated first in the conference though a preseason coaches’ poll predicted a 10th-place finish. Saturday night’s contest against Union (3–6–3, 1–5–0) gave Yale a chance to redeem itself, as the Bulldogs came from behind to defeat the Dutchmen 2–1 on a sudden-death goal by forward Andrew Gaus ’19, one of two goals for the freshman this weekend.
“It was certainly nice to end the weekend on a high note with the OT win at Union,” defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 said. “We battled really hard, played well in our team game, and I think that was a fitting way to finish the weekend. Friday was frustrating in that it was certainly a winnable game, but a few too many mistakes cost us.”
RPI’s three goals on 19 shots came in spite of a stretch during which goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 saved 15 of the 16 shots fired at him. The Engineers scored on just their second shot of the contest, 79 seconds into the first period, along with their game-winning score. The Bulldogs would match, but never overcome, the initial 1–0 lead, though they largely dominated the rink.
The Elis quickly established their offensive prowess in the first period as well. Promoted to the starting line for the first time this season, the young duo of forwards Ryan Hitchcock ’18 and Joe Snively ’19 scored at 6:45, just five minutes after the RPI goal.
An assist from Snively led to a low shot from Hitchcock that bounced off the leg of an RPI player before making its way into the net to tie up the score.
Yale maintained control of the game even after the first intermission, and despite 15 shots to the Engineers’ six in the frame, the Elis went scoreless while allowing RPI to take the lead once more with a long shot through traffic.
With RPI leading 2–1 at the final intermission, the number of shots fired only became more unbalanced in the third as the Bulldogs ripped 11 at freshman goaltender Cam Hackett, more than tripling the three attempts made by the Engineers. Hackett, whose team has not lost any game in which he has seen ice time, finished with a 0.953 save percentage in the contest.
The Elis seized on a power-play opportunity to tie up the game when Gaus capitalized on a puck that deflected off Hackett’s pad, scoring his first career goal for Yale and sending the team into a five-minute overtime period at the end of regulation play.
“It was just a great play by all five guys,” forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 said. “The power play had been creating a lot of chances for us all night, and we were fortunate enough to cash in … You always remember your first college goal, and that was a big one for the team.”
Despite a 24-shot deficit in the game, the teams finished dead even in that category in extra time, as it took just a single shot from RPI to hand the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. RPI forward Victor Liljegren found himself with a breakaway after a Yale possession, and faked right before shooting the puck high past Lyon’s stick.
The Elis got another chance to prove themselves in overtime the next night, facing Union in another contest with a large Yale shot advantage of 31–20 — the fifth time in six games that the Elis have led in shots.
“I felt like we were the better team all three periods [against RPI],” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said after the Union contest. “With young people that can sometimes lead to frustration, but our guys stuck with the program and [against Union] we got what we wanted.”
It was a defense-driven game for the majority of play, as both teams were kept off the scoreboard until late in the second period. The Dutchmen capitalized on a power play to get the puck past Lyon, who had an otherwise flawless night that included making a save while lying flat on his back in the second period. The power-play goal was the first that Yale has allowed this season.
More than doubling Union’s shot total after the second intermission, the Elis dominated the third period, quickly tying up the game off a shot from DiChiara to send the game into overtime.
“We take a lot of pride in being a good third-period team,” Gaus said. “I think our captain Mitch [Witek ’16] did a really good job getting us excited, and we came out with a lot of energy and did a great job in the third.”
It took four minutes of overtime play, but eventually Gaus one-timed a game-winning goal off assists from DiChiara and forward Stu Wilson ’16 to secure the Bulldog victory. With his second goal in as many games, Gaus adds to the offensive power of the rookies on the roster, who have scored six of the team’s 19 goals this season.
Though Yale finished with split results on the weekend, O’Gara highlighted the team’s ability to battle back from deficits — Yale tied the game in the third period in both contests — as a silver lining.
“This is huge to have for a team because it’s still early and we will continue to remove imperfections from our team game as time passes,” O’Gara said.
Yale will face Cornell in its home opener on Friday and Colgate on Saturday. The puck will drop at 7 p.m. in Ingalls Rink.