Courtesy of Steve Musco
The Yale men’s hockey team stumbled to two disheartening home defeats this weekend in an unwelcome return to its pre-holiday form.
The Elis (10–9–2, 6–7–3 ECAC Hockey) were outfought and outplayed by Princeton (9–11–3, 4–9–3) in a 4–2 defeat on Friday night. A better performance on Saturday night was undone, as poor discipline and a few bad bounces condemned the Bulldogs to a 5–2 loss against No. 19 Quinnipiac (16–11–2, 10–6–1) and a winless weekend.
“It’s the little things with us,” forward Frank DiChiara ’17 said. “I didn’t think we played terribly; we competed, we won battles, we were certainly doing things that we didn’t do last night and what’s been killing us lately is the turnovers. We’ve been turning pucks over, and they’re a good team so they have some skilled guys and they capitalized. That’s ultimately why we were unsuccessful tonight, our management of the puck.”
Yale entered Friday’s game against Princeton riding a six-game unbeaten streak. The Bulldogs got off to a blistering start, as forward Joe Snively ’19 blasted home a one-timer from the right side off a smooth, cross-ice pass from DiChiara just five minutes into the game.
But Princeton roared back to net two past Sam Tucker ’19 in the Eli goal and seize a 2–1 lead. The Bulldogs remained behind for just two minutes, before Snively doubled his tally of the night on a power play, snapping a wrister past Tiger netminder Colton Phinney after a scramble in front of the cage at 17:47 of the first.
Neither team could break the deadlock in the second period, but Princeton slotted home the go-ahead goal just two minutes into the third. Forward Eric Robinson flicked the rebound of a backhander on the doorstep past Tucker with the Yale defense static. The Tiger’s leading scorer, forward Ryan Kuffner, created the final scoreline by cleaning up yet another rebound opportunity.
Tucker made a career-high 37 saves on the night, but three of the Princeton finishes came on second-chance opportunities. The Tigers won almost every 50–50 battle for a puck on the night, summing up a Yale performance that head coach Keith Allain ’80 found lacking in every department.
Allain made a couple of personnel changes for Quinnipiac, adding two of the more physical players on the roster to the lineup, forward JM Piotrowski ’19 and defender Dan O’Keefe ’17, who was playing in an unfamiliar role up front. In front of a capacity crowd, the Bulldogs came out flying and opened the scoring early in the opening stanza through DiChiara at 4:22 of the first, before the Bobcats had even tested goalie Patrick Spano ’17.
The Eli momentum stalled as Piotrowski launched an opponent into the boards from behind, earning a five-minute major penalty. Quinnipiac exploited the player-advantage, as defender Chase Priskie whistled a rocket above Spano’s glove just 20 seconds into the power play to level the scoreline at 9:07 of the first.
Although Yale killed off the remainder of that penalty, early in the second period captain and forward John Hayden ’17 earned a boarding major of his own. Snively turned the disadvantage into gold early in the kill, driving hard to the Quinnipiac net to draw a hooking call, before dishing an eye-of-the-needle pass to DiChiara, who fired a trademark rocket into the back of the net.
However, in the remaining time on Hayden’s penalty, Priskie returned DiChiara’s score with one of his own, smoking a laser from the blueline beyond Spano to tie the game in a veritable carbon-copy of his first finish. With the two teams back at even-strength, a fluke bounce off the stick of Bobcat forward Nick Jermain popped the puck over an unfortunate Spano to give Quinnipiac a 3–2 lead heading into the final frame.
Jermain fired home his second goal of the game early in the third period after a series of defensive miscues from Yale in failing to clear the zone. The Elis had their chances on the power play to fight back into the game but failed to convert some golden opportunities, exemplified by Hayden whiffing in front of a wide-open goal. The Bobcats earned their fifth goal on the power play after Hayden was whistled for tripping. Yale drew 18 penalty minutes on the night, half from its captain, giving Quinnipiac ample opportunity to get all pistons firing on its player-advantage unit.
“We had a game plan coming into this game, and we knew we had to work hard for 60 minutes straight,” said Priskie, who scored twice on the power play. “We fed off [the physicality] — we weren’t happy with a couple of the calls, so we just riled our team up and made them pay on a couple of them.”
Both teams snapped streaks with this game, though this was better news for the Bobcats: The victory was Quinnipiac’s first weekend since late November where the team managed two wins. It was Yale’s first back-to-back loss since December.
“We needed to get a Saturday win; we’ve been struggling the second night,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “This was good for us, it was a big win for us in terms of our mental preparation and being ready to go.”
Of the entire weekend, only one of the 11 Eli points came from a skater other than DiChiara, Hayden or Snively. In addition to their top-heavy offense, the Bulldogs struggled to maintain their level of play in the third period, conceding four goals while failing to find the back of the net once.