The Yale men’s hockey team blew an early two-goal lead and slumped to a disappointing defeat to No. 15 Union on Saturday night. Dutchmen forward Spencer Foo grabbed a hat trick capped by the winning goal with 2:10 to play in the third lifting his team to a 5–3 victory.
After notching their second conference win of the season with a 7–3 blowout of cellar-dwellar Rensselaer on Friday night, the Bulldogs entered their rematch against the Dutchmen hoping to avenge their 5–3 defeat earlier this season. However, for the second consecutive game against Union, Yale squandered a two-goal advantage and ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
“I thought we played a strong game,” goaltender Sam Tucker ’19 said. “They capitalized on more of their chances, but I think if we keep playing like that we’re going to win a lot of games.”
The Elis got off to a bright start when forward Joe Snively ’19 fired home his team-leading eighth goal of the season to hand his team an early lead at 6:44. Forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 drove hard to the net, and although his initial close-range wrister was turned aside by Union goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos, Snively was on hand at the edge of the crease to turn home the rebound into the gaping goal. Yale doubled its advantage almost immediately through forward Chris Izmirlian ’17, who slotted home a cool finish after creative work in the offensive zone from forwards Luke Stevens ’20 and Ted Hart ’19 at 7:06.
Leaving the first with a 2–0 lead, the Bulldogs failed to replicate their intensity or success in the second stanza. Union halved the deficit 50 seconds into the period when defender Jeff Taylor fired home a laser from the slot following a pinpoint cross ice pass that left Tucker helpless. The Bulldog power play lacked any bite, and it was Union who took advantage of Yale’s extra skater.
Foo, the NCAA leader in assists, tied the game at 7:35, racing in alone on Tucker following a defensive breakdown just 12 seconds into Yale’s third power play of the night before deking the Yale goalie and sliding the puck home. Two minutes later, Foo scored a carbon-copy goal, skating in on a stranded Tucker rounding the Eli netminder before roofing a backhander to give the Dutchmen the lead at 9:37.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Bulldogs as captain John Hayden ’17 was ejected for a hit that left Union defender Greg Campbell prone on the ice. Hayden was assessed a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct, leaving an Eli offense that mustered a measly three shots on net during the period without of one of its top scorers for the remainder of the game. The Yale penalty kill stood firm and denied the Dutchmen, keeping the deficit at just one goal as the horn sounded to end the second.
Yale came out re-energized in the third but was unable to create many high quality looks against Sakellaropoulos early on. The best of the Bulldogs’ attempts came from forward Mike Doherty ’17, but Sakellaropoulos made a fine save with his left pad on the low wrister.
The Elis kept ratcheting the pressure up on the Union goal and earned their due reward with three minutes to play. Forward Mitchell Smith ’20 whipped a backhander facing away from the goal that caught Sakellaropoulos by surprise and nestled in the net for his first collegiate point, drawing the Elis level at three apiece at 17:30.
“I thought it was hard-earned,” Smith said. “The whole team was working well and the whole third period everyone was generating energy so I was lucky to find the net … feels pretty good though.”
But before the Bulldogs had finished celebrating, Foo had polished off his hat trick and the Dutchmen victory. After catching the defense napping on the other end of the ice, Foo slotted home a rebound after a great, sprawling save from Tucker.
The Elis pushed forward frantically in search of a second equalizer, but the Union defense held strong even with Tucker pulled for an extra skater. Snively had the best chance with under 1:30 to play, but Sakellaropoulos stoned the Bulldogs’ leading scorer on the doorstep to preserve the one-goal margin. Union forward Cole Maier added a touch of gloss to the final scoreline with an empty-net finish from center ice with 2.6 seconds left in the game, saddling the Bulldogs with a second 5–3 defeat to Union this season.
“I thought for large parts of the game we played well, and I’m bitterly disappointed with the end,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I think we’re making progress — not as quickly as I would like, but we’re making progress.”
Yale travels to No. 5 Boston University for a 7 p.m. faceoff on Tuesday.