Captain John Hayden ’17 fired home a dramatic late winner with 59 seconds remaining to lift the Yale men’s hockey team to a vital 2–1 league victory over Clarkson. Forward Luke Stevens ’20 notched his first collegiate goal midway through the second to hand the Bulldogs an early lead that was cancelled out before Hayden’s late intervention allowed the Elis to avoid a third stalemate against the Golden Knights this year.
After two victories from three competitive non-conference games, the Bulldogs returned to league play against a familiar foe. Yale (7–7–2, 3–5–1 ECAC Hockey) fought Clarkson (10–9–3, 5–4–1) to two hard-fought ties earlier in the season, but the Elis’ only two league wins before Friday came against cellar dwelling Rensselaer. The Golden Knights came into the game tied for fifth in the conference, with more than double Yale’s point total, but the Elis emerged with a victory that could mark a turning point in their campaign.
The first period epitomized the parity between the two teams. Both squads fired 10 shots on net and entered the locker room scoreless and tied. Yale broke the deadlock at 13:50 when forward Evan Smith ’20 won the draw back to forward Ted Hart ’19. Hart’s blast from the point ricocheted around the crease where Stevens finished on the doorstep in true power forward style to open his collegiate account.
The Bulldogs held a tenuous advantage heading into the final frame, but failed to shepherd it until the buzzer. Clarkson equalized on the power play at 11:02 of the third, finally beating the excellence displayed by Eli goalie Patrick Spano ’17. Spano made 32 saves on the night to earn his sixth victory of the season.
With the clocking ticking down towards triple zeroes, Hayden stepped up yet again to lead by example, netting his lucky thirteenth goal of the season after some exquisite hustle and vision from forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18. Hitchcock outskated a Clarkson defender to a loose puck in the corner and whipped a precise pass into the slot for the captain. Hayden launched a laser whistling into the top corner past Golden Knight netminder Jake Kielly to restore the Yale advantage.
The Bulldogs suffered one final scare, when Clarkson created a golden opportunity with Kielly pulled for an extra skater. A decisive intervention from defender Billy Sweezey ’20 to deny a clean Clarkson breakaway with a stick check preserved the slender advantage until the final horn, earning the Elis a crucial conference victory.
The win lifts Yale into a tie for seventh place in the conference with Princeton as they host second-place Saint Lawrence at Ingalls on Saturday night. The Saints, who pummeled the Bulldogs 5–2 earlier in the season and have the best defensive record in the ECAC, will pose a tough test for an Eli team hoping that tonight’s win shows a turned corner, not a false dawn.
Hayden’s game-winning goal was the first by a Yale skater with under a minute to play since Kenny Agostino ’14 scored with thirty-four seconds left to power the Bulldogs to a 5–4 win over Dartmouth on Jan. 28, 2012.