Courtesy Yale Athletics
The Yale men’s hockey team spent Thanksgiving in South Bend, Indiana, where the Elis earned a third-place finish in the Shillelagh Tournament at Notre Dame.
After an uneven start to their league slate, the Bulldogs (3–4–2, 1–4–1 ECAC Hockey) returned to nonleague play, first skating to a hard-fought 2–2 draw with ECAC rival Clarkson (8–5–3, 4–1–1) in the tournament semifinals only to see the Golden Knights progress to the final via a 3–1 shootout victory. In the consolation match, two goals from forward Joe Snively ’19 lifted the Elis to a 3–1 win over Holy Cross (5–5–2, 2–2–2 Atlantic Hockey), securing Yale third place.
“The focus of our team has been playing a full 60 minute game, and Saturday was one of our best efforts in doing so,” defender Charlie Curti ’19 said. “[On] Friday, I thought we played very well for about half of the game, but lapses in the first and third periods cost us. We will look to build off a better effort on Saturday, and use the confidence from the positive aspects of our game to prepare for our next games, as well as learn from the negatives and fix them.”
The Bulldogs came into the tournament after two tough road games the previous weekend. The Elis suffered a 5–2 defeat against league-leading St. Lawrence, before travelling to third-place Clarkson and battling back from a 3–1 third-period deficit to earn a 3–3 overtime draw. Forward Ted Hart ’19 cut the margin to one before captain and forward John Hayden ’17 fired home the tying goal on the power play, his team-leading seventh goal of the season. A scoreless overtime ensured the points were shared.
Just six days after that tie, Yale and Clarkson met again in the first round of the Shillelagh Tournament. Another hard-fought game ended with the scores even, this time at two goals apiece.
The Golden Knights took an early first period lead when forward Sheldon Rempal beat Yale goaltender Patrick Spano ’17. But this time, the Eli fightback came in the second period rather than the third. Forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 sent a laser into the back of the net on the power play to tie the game up at 7:05. With little more than a minute to play in the period, Snively put Yale ahead, slotting home a one-time finish after a smooth pass from Hayden on a Yale rush.
Clarkson found an equalizer with five minutes to play, and neither team could net a decisive goal in the remainder of regulation or overtime. Although the game counts as a tie in both teams’ season records, one team had to progress to the tournament finals to face the host Fighting Irish.
The tiebreaker was a shootout, a National Hockey League feature that only appears in college in-season tournaments. All three Clarkson shooters scored, while defender Henry Hart ’18 missed the first opportunity for the Bulldogs, rendering a successful attempt from forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 a consolation and leaving the third Yale shooter, forward Will D’Orsi ’20, without an opportunity.
“Playing any team two games in a row is always tough, but especially Clarkson,” DiChiara said. “They’re a great team and they play the game hard all over the ice. Having seen them last week though we knew what to expect and were able to prepare all week in order to ensure we were ready to play Friday. Unfortunately, we only came out with a tie, but I thought we played pretty well.”
In the consolation game against Holy Cross, Yale sprinted to a quick lead. Less than two minutes into the game, Snively found the opening goal at 1:45, wristing home the rebound after Crusader goalie Paul Berrafato pushed Hitchcock’s centering pass out into the slot. But the early deficit did not daunt the Crusaders, who pulled level with Hayden in the box through Danny Lopez, at 3:18 of the first period.
DiChiara broke the deadlock early in the second, tapping in the rebound of Hayden’s effort after Berrafato made a strong pad save to deny the initial shot. Snively capped off the Eli victory with his third goal of the tournament at 17:03 of the third, whacking home his wrap-around attempt.
The Holy Cross offense struggled to create openings against the stifling Yale defense, putting only eight pucks on net combined in the first two periods. Although they tested Spano 14 times in the final frame, the Bulldog netminder stopped them all.
“When we are outskating teams, which we can do to most any team, everything seems to be working,” D’Orsi said. “We generate offense from our defensive pressure and teams just can’t keep up with us. We also focused on controlling and fighting for rebounds in offensive zone. We know how dangerous we can be when we’re on, it’s just a matter of playing that full, relentless 60 minutes.”
The single goal conceded matched Yale’s best defensive performance on the season, and the two goals they allowed against Clarkson equaled their best against a foe outside of the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
With defender Anthony Walsh ’19 out after suffering an injury against Cornell two weeks ago, forward Henry Hart went back to play defense, an unfamiliar role that he took to with gusto. In addition to playing an important role in the Elis’ defensive solidity, Hart contributed two assists in the four games he played on the blue line.
“It definitely wasn’t the role I saw myself in coming into the year, however I am happy to have the opportunity and contribute to the success of our team,” Hart said. “I played defense a little bit growing up when I first started playing hockey, but have been a forward for the last 10 to 12 years. Playing forward in the beginning of my college career has helped parts of the defensive game … However, there has been a large learning process and the other D on the team have done a great job supporting me and offering guidance where they see fit.”
Clarkson ended up defeating Notre Dame 2–0 in the finals, providing a frustrating coda to the tournament for the Bulldogs, given that they outplayed the Golden Knights for long periods of the semifinal.
The Elis are off next weekend before resuming conference play at home against Rensselaer and Union on Dec. 9 and 10, respectively.
Correction, Nov. 28: A previous version of this article misstated the state in which South Bend is located. It is in Indiana, not Illinois.