Before this weekend’s ECAC Men’s Hockey Tournament quarterfinal series, Dartmouth goaltender Charles Grant had just a 78.8 save percentage in two losses to No. 7 Yale this season. But in two upset victories at Ingalls Rink Friday and Saturday, the senior turned away 95.9 percent of the Eli shots he faced — and took down any Bulldog hopes of winning the conference title in the process.
The seventh-seeded Big Green (18–15–1, 11–11–0) defeated second-seeded Yale (19–8–4, 14–5–3) 2–1 on Saturday behind a spectacular performance by Grant, finishing a 2–0 sweep and knocking the Elis out of the ECAC Tournament in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year. A night after stopping 48 Bulldog shots in an overtime victory on Friday, Grant was again named the first star of the game for his 46-save effort on Saturday in a contest that the Bulldogs commanded throughout, but ultimately failed to take.
“I’ve been in hockey a long time,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I’ve never seen a team dominate another team like that and not come out on top.”
After playing nearly four periods in Friday night’s overtime loss, Yale came out firing in the opening frame. The Elis gave Grant an early workout, forcing him to stop eight shots in the first seven minutes, and never let up.
Grant, however, was unable to block the ninth, his only miscue of the evening. A quick pass from forward Carson Cooper ’16 found forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 at the high slot, and DiChiara fired a hard stick-side wrist shot past Grant to give the Bulldogs an early lead, their first of the series. But despite the Elis controlling play throughout much of the first period — Yale outshot the visitors 16–5 in the frame — it would also be their last lead of the series.
Six minutes after the Bulldogs’ goal, Dartmouth forward Brad Schierhorn sent a puck towards Yale goaltender Alex Lyon ’17, and the All-American netminder stopped it but redirected it straight up into the air. While Lyon searched for the puck, Dartmouth defenseman Timothy Shoup found it first and knocked in the equalizer.
The Big Green took the lead soon thereafter, as Dartmouth forward Kevin Neiley took control off of a Yale turnover in the Bulldog zone and found forward Kevan Killstoff, who buried the game-winner.
A goalless but chippy second period saw the Elis’ shot advantage stretch to 34–9, and Yale had no more luck solving Grant in the third, either.
Dartmouth, which played nearly the equivalent of four games due to overtimes last weekend, was “trying to slow things down,” according to Allain, and constantly iced the puck rather than attempting to counterattack Yale’s offensive pushes towards the end of the night.
“I thought we played a great game for all 60 minutes,” Allain said. “I think our guys played the way I asked them to play and they played that way to the very end … I’ll take that game every single day.”
As of late Saturday night, the Bulldogs sat at No. 10 in the PairWise rankings, their lowest standing in that metric since Feb. 18. A No. 10 ranking still leaves Yale still in strong, though perhaps not ideal, position for an NCAA Tournament bid. Sixteen teams make the field, including an automatic qualifier from all six conferences.
Yale will learn its fate on March 20, the NCAA’s Selection Sunday for men’s hockey.