The Yale men’s hockey team finished off its last regular season home weekend by splitting its two games, bouncing back after Friday’s loss to earn two points and solidify its position in the Eastern College Athletic Conference standings.
The Bulldogs (11–11–5, 7–9–4 ECAC Hockey) fell 4–2 to rival No. 3 Harvard (20–5–2, 14–4–2) after getting down early and failing to muster a comeback. However, the Elis finished the weekend by dominating Dartmouth (10–14–3, 7–11–2), beating the Big Green 4–0 and earning their second shutout of the season.
“I thought we were good defensively [against Harvard], but I don’t think we generated much,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I thought [against Dartmouth] not only did we score four goals, but I think we generated a lot more quality chances.”
The last time Yale played Harvard, a game that ended in a 1–1 tie, the Bulldogs were on a tear, having lost just once in a 10-game stretch that had them climbing the rankings. Since then, however, the Elis faltered, going winless in their four prior matchups and struggling with depth scoring and on special teams.
The game against the Crimson typified these problems. The Bulldogs’ power-play unit failed to produce any offense while allowing two shorthanded goals, one of which was called back due to goaltender interference on Patrick Spano ’17. Even with one of the Crimson’s shorthanded tallies disallowed, Yale’s power play is now among one of the most scored on in the NCAA, having allowed seven goals while a player up.
The Eli penalty kill did not fare much better, allowing two power-play goals, one of which came on a 5-on-3 advantage. Harvard was able to go up 3–0 in three different situations — at even strength, a player down and on the man advantage — showcasing its strengths in all aspects of the game.
Forward Andrew Gaus ’19 scored with a shorthanded goal of his own to make it 3–1 going into the final period, but another power-play goal from the Crimson restored their three-goal lead. Captain and forward John Hayden’s ’17 tally in the third period was all the offense that Yale could muster, and the Crimson remained up by at least two goals for the entirety of the game, taking advantage of their opportunities and remaining in control throughout.
The game against Dartmouth, however, was a different story. The Bulldogs once again dominated the Big Green after having thrashed them 7–0 earlier in the season. On a night that the focus was on the senior players and their potential last game at Ingalls Rink, it was the sophomore class, who have had to step up into veteran roles after graduating a strong class season, that shone in all aspects of the game.
“These seniors mean so much to us,” goaltender Sam Tucker ’19 said. “They’ve done so much for Yale hockey and it was amazing to be able to send them out like this in the regular season at Ingalls.”
Tucker, playing for the fifth time in the last seven games, earned his first collegiate shutout with his 26-save effort. Defender Anthony Walsh ’19 opened the scoring with his first goal of the season, and forward Ted Hart ’19 increased the Bulldog lead when a 2-on-1 break gave him the chance to deke out Dartmouth’s netminder.
Hayden scored his 18th goal of the season late in the second period and has recorded a point in all but two of the Bulldog’s home games this season. Gaus also scored on Saturday, finishing off a great weekend of play with an empty net tally to underscore the victory.
“[Gaus] had a great weekend,” Allain said. “I think he’s starting to use his speed [and] he’s handling the puck with a little bit more confidence. Him being able to produce gives us a big boost.”
With Dartmouth just below Yale in the ECAC standings, the Saturday victory was a huge step toward ensuring that the Bulldogs would return to Ingalls Rink for the playoffs in a fortnight. The top eight teams in the conference get home-ice advantage in the playoffs, and the seventh-place Elis now have a three-point cushion on the teams tied in ninth place and are two points ahead of Dartmouth in eighth place. The Bulldogs need two of four points next weekend to clinch a home series in March for their run for the ECAC title, which is their only chance of getting to compete in the NCAA tournament.
“The atmosphere and support here was incredible; we’re hungry to get more games here,” Hayden said. “Any win like that gives us motivation going into the playoffs. You just have to get hot at the right time [and] we’re excited for the next few weeks. [However], we take it game by game, so we’re just focused on next weekend right now.”
Yale wraps up the regular season on the road next weekend, facing off against Quinnipiac and Princeton.