The Yale men’s hockey team swept a foundering Brown squad this past weekend to continue its red-hot start to the New Year and earn its first four-point weekend of the season.
A late power-play goal from defender Henry Hart ’18 capped the Bulldogs’ (10–7–4, 6–5–3 ECAC Hockey) comeback to transform a 3–1 deficit into a cathartic 4–3 success in Providence on Friday night. Facing Brown (4–16–1, 3–11–0) again in front of a capacity crowd the following night in New Haven, Yale again conceded first but scored the next four to run out 4–1 winners in a game that was nowhere near as comfortable as the score line indicated.
“It was a really good game,” goalie Sam Tucker ’19 said. “We knew it was going to be a tough, Ivy League match-up. I thought the boys came through and played really well. Everyone’s really excited [about the four points] — we feel like our game has come a long way this year and we’re just getting better every week.”
The first act on Friday featured a penalty-ridden contest decided by Yale’s special-teams superiority, despite the Bulldogs conceding yet another shorthanded goal. The two teams took 17 penalties combined across the game, creating nine opportunities for the Elis to take advantage of Brown’s Division I-worst penalty kill.
The Bears seized the advantage early as forward Max Willman shot past Yale goalie Patrick Spano ’17 with captain and forward John Hayden ’17 in the box for elbowing. Barely two minutes later, however, forward Robbie DeMontis ’20 netted his first collegiate goal to restore parity with an impending penalty call against Brown.
Forward Sam Lafferty handed Brown the lead with the only even-strength finish of the night just 43 seconds into the second period. He subsequently doubled the advantage by exploiting Yale’s Achilles’ heel with a shorthanded goal. The Bulldogs had not conceded a goal on their own power play before this season since Nov. 8, 2013, but have shipped six already this year. Lafferty finished deftly past Spano to push the Bear lead to 3–1, even with a teammate in the box for slashing.
Yale had not conceded the first goal in a game since a defeat to No. 1 Boston University before Christmas, but showed tremendous composure to rally from behind on Friday night. Hayden led from the front, first halving the deficit at 14:13 in the second before continuing his goal-scoring prowess on the power play. The captain, who has netted 10 of his team’s 21 goals on the player advantage this year, found the net again with just 21 seconds to play in the frame to send the teams to the locker room all square.
Though the referees let the game flow more in the third, whistling for only three infractions, Yale seized full advantage of its only power play opportunity in the period to wrap up the two points. Hart floated a shot from the point that evaded a screened Gavin Nieto in the Brown net with 5:54 to play to establish the final 4–3 score.
“Everyone is just a little more comfortable, from the back end all the way to the forwards,” forward Evan Smith ’20 said. “We’re getting our systems down better, we’re executing our breakout and our forecheck, and we’re just coming together as a team and it shows on the ice.”
Yale fell behind again in the return leg on Saturday to another early shorthanded finish. The Bulldogs came out of the gates lethargic and sloppy at Ingalls Rink, and Brown’s leading goalscorer Charlie Corcoran struck first. The junior picked the pocket of Charlie Curti ’19 as the defender tried to stickhandle up the ice before firing a low shot past Tucker.
After conceding the opener to his former childhood teammate, Tucker shut down the Bear attack for the remainder of the game, making 24 saves on the night including a sequence of difficult stops in the second when Brown applied some heavy pressure to the Yale zone.
Forward Ted Hart ’19 wasted no time in pulling the Elis level, ripping a laser from the dot on the same power play that allowed the opening goal, ringing the puck off the underside of the crossbar and over the line.
Neither team proved capable off lighting up the scoreboard in the second period. The Yale defense continued its recent strong play, especially on special teams. Brown had two power-play opportunities in the second, but the Elis snuffed both out to turn the tide of the game.
“The penalty kill I thought was really good,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I actually think that as we gradually took control of the game we had a couple of big kills late in the second, and whether it gave us momentum or drained it from them, I think that helped changed the game.”
Smith potted his second goal of the season off an excellent dish from defender Billy Sweezey ’20 just 1:40 into the final stanza. His goal would stand up to be his second game-winner of the year, highlighting his excellent, high-energy display on the night.
Brown pushed for an equalizer leaving more room for Yale to create chances offensively, and forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 launched a missile into the top corner with just under five minutes to play to extend the lead to 3–1. Smith put the exclamation point on a successful weekend for the Bulldogs with an empty-net backhander from his own defensive zone to put some gloss on the result.
The Elis have conceded just eight goals in their past six games, showing the consistent improvement from the freshmen contributors on the back end. The return of Anthony Walsh ’19, who missed 15 games after suffering a concussion on Nov. 12 against Cornell, also provided the Elis an additional boost at the blueline.
“Walsh was immediately our best defensemen out there tonight,” Allain said. “He’s competitive, he’s smart, he brings good energy to the bench and he was very, very good.”
Yale will take the week to prepare for home games against ECAC opponents Quinnipiac and Princeton next weekend.