In the second half of a major four-point conference weekend, the No. 11 Yale men’s hockey team survived a third-period comeback attempt by No. 7 Harvard, taking down the Crimson 2–1 in a physical battle at Ingalls Rink.
Goals from forwards John Hayden ’17 and Cody Learned ’16 — the second scores of the weekend for both players — gave the Bulldogs (14–5–4, 9–4–3 ECAC Hockey) a 2–1 lead midway through the game, and it took another stellar performance from goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 in the third period to help close out the Yale win. Lyon finished with 25 saves on 26 shots against a Crimson squad (13–6–3, 9–4–3) that entered the game having scored zero or one goals just three times this season.
“It’s unbelievable,” Learned said. “We had a lot of injuries, [but] the team really came together and played one of the most complete games of the year. It’s extra nice that our opponent was Harvard and we were able to beat them.”
Coming off a 5–1 routing of No. 20 Dartmouth the night before, the Bulldogs start to Saturday’s contest against the Crimson was slow in comparison. It took nearly four minutes for Yale to launch the first shot on goal for either team, and another six minutes until the first puck found the net.
Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey — who entered the game second in the nation in points per game with a 1.62 average — collected a pass from linemate Alexander Kerfoot and shot directly into the open net, left empty by Lyon, who was scrambling outside the crease. The goal came during one of just a few scoring chances for Harvard during the first period, as the Crimson fired only four at Lyon in the enter first frame.
Yale was quick to respond with a tally of its own. Less than two minutes later, Hayden finished off a Bulldog possession with a shot from directly in front of the goal after receiving a perfect pass from forward Stu Wilson ’16. The goal was the third point of the weekend for Hayden, who leads the team with 12 goals this season, and the fourth of the weekend for Wilson.
Key defensive plays from the Bulldogs, including a block in front of the net from defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 with under three minutes on the clock, held the Crimson to the single goal, and the first period ended in a 1–1 draw.
The start of the second frame also opened with few offensive opportunities on both sides of the ice. Things finally heated up for the Elis nearly halfway through the period. In a Yale possession with several missed passes in which Vesey lost a stick, Learned fired a shot through traffic and past Harvard netminder Merrick Madsen to give the Bulldogs the lead for the first time that night. Learned now boasts a four-game point streak after scoring in both games this weekend.
“The line before us had a great shift so the Harvard guys were tired,” Learned said. “We trapped them in their end. [Defenseman Dan] O’Keefe ’17 made a good pass to me down low and I saw an opening and brought it to the middle and got a shot on net. Luckily it went in.”
The period ended with a pair of matching penalties — the first call of the game against either team — on forwards Frankie DiChiara ’17 from Yale and Colin Blackwell from Harvard. Yale headed into the second intermission ahead of its rival 2–1, and with 14 seconds of four-on-four action remaining for the third period.
Harvard’s offense launched just three shots at Lyon during the second period. Forty minutes into the game, Yale led Harvard 19–7 in shots.
But the Crimson began seriously threatening the Bulldogs early in the third period with a series of close offensive attempts, including a shot that knocked Lyon off balance just three minutes after play resumed. Yale star defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 was called for two penalties in the first half of the period, the second of which was a contact to the head penalty that disqualified him for the rest of the game. Forward Henry Hart served O’Gara’s five-minute major, forcing Yale to skate four-on-four for two minutes and down a man for another three.
In total, Harvard had five minutes on the power play during the third period, making Lyon a much larger part of the game than he had been in the first two thirds of the contest. The Crimson would edge out the Elis in shots 19–3 in the final frame.
“[There were] puck battles, they took sticks … They were playing desperate hockey,” head coach Keith Allain ’80. “We were playing just as desperately to keep it out of our net and I think that’s what you see at the end of a really good hockey game.”
In the final minutes, Harvard overtook the Bulldogs in shots, ending the game with a 26–22 advantage. Madsen was pulled from the net with 90 seconds remaining, and Lyon faced four shots during the Crimson advantage, including an unsuccessful attempt by Vesey that slipped off his stick and hit the side of the net to end Harvard’s chance to tie the game.
Yale is now 5–2–1 against Harvard during the past two seasons, and 1–0–1 in 2015–16. The Bulldogs next hit the road to take on Colgate and Cornell next weekend.