For the first time since the 2013–14 season, the Yale men’s ice hockey team failed to sweep Brown, slumping to a 4–1 defeat in its season opener on Friday before rebounding to win 5–2 on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (1–1–0, 1–1–0 ECAC) outshot the Bears (1–1–0, 1–1–0) 45–25 in the opening contest, but their failure to capitalize on offensive opportunities and the power play factored heavily in the three-goal loss. On Saturday night, the Elis reversed their fortunes and a flurry of third-period goals sealed a convincing success to salvage a split against a team that finished last in the ECAC in 2016–17.
“The big difference between Friday and Saturday was execution for our team and playing a total 60-minute game,” captain and forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 said. “That went a long way for us Saturday as we understood just getting scoring chances wasn’t good enough and we converted on our opportunities. In terms of a complete game, we learned Friday that one bad period is the difference between winning and losing and we didn’t let that same hiccup happen again on Saturday.”
Yale controlled the puck for the majority of the first period, but failed to convert that possession into tangible high-quality chances. Instead, despite having fewer shots on net, Brown seized its opportunities and the lead. Bears’ rookie defender Zach Giuttari opened the scoring with a blast from the point that took a deflection halfway through the opening frame.
Just five minutes later, 20 seconds after the Elis squandered a power-play opportunity, the Bears extended their lead when another first year, forward Alec Mehr, chipped a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and past Yale goaltender Sam Tucker ’19. The Bulldogs went 0-for-4 on the player advantage in the first period, with the new special teams units lacking fluency and struggling to create chances.
Not to be outshone by Brown’s rookies, Yale defender Phil Kemp ’21 stepped up and notched his first career goal as a Bulldog and put Yale on the scoreboard just 46 seconds into the second period. During the next 19 minutes of play, the Elis had multiple looks from around the crease denied by Brown goaltender Gavin Nieto, who recorded 44 saves on the night. The best opportunity came around halfway in, when Hitchcock took the puck on a breakaway, but couldn’t manage to find the back of the net.
In the third period, neither team had any offensive success, and with under a minute to play, it seemed Brown would take away a 2–1 win. However, head coach Keith Allain ’80 pulled Tucker from the goal for the final minute and the Bears scored two open-net goals to put some gloss on the final 4–1 scoreline.
“Friday was a tough one to swallow,” defender Billy Sweezey ’20 said. “We had a lot of pressure on them and almost doubled their shots, but we weren’t able to capitalize on the scoreboard. A lot of our shots came from the perimeter and didn’t really test their goalie as we wanted. We were looking to make the perfect play when we got in tight to the net and maybe a few extra passes than we needed to.”
After the disappointing season opener, the Bulldogs emerged on Saturday ready to clinch a victory in Providence. The underclassmen led Yale’s offensive charge as forward Brett Jewell ’21 recorded his debut goal, assisted by fellow first year and forward Dante Palecco ’21 and defender Matt Foley ’20 midway through the opening period to open the scoring and give the Bulldogs their first lead of the weekend.
Yale suffered a bout of indiscipline on Saturday night, as the officials assessed nine penalties against the Elis in Saturday night’s contest, with five coming in the second period alone. During the first of those infractions, Brown capitalized on its player advantage, tying up the game with a goal from forward Tyler Bird as Sweezey sat in the penalty box for interference.
Just five minutes later, forward Joe Snively ’19, the team’s leading scorer last year, reclaimed the lead for Yale with the first of his two goals on the night. The Eli penalty kill showed their mid-season form, preventing further power play goals in the penalty-ridden period and ensuring the team kept its one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
However, the back-and-forth play continued in the final frame as the Bulldogs let the lead slip for a second time. Brown forward Brent Beaudoin tallied the equalizer in the opening minutes of the third period, beating Tucker to put the result in the balance again.
Determined to salvage a win on the weekend, Yale’s offense rallied to score three more goals in the third period. Forward Mitchell Smith ’20 started the offensive surge with a goal at 6:17 assisted by forwards Andrew Gaus ’19 and Evan Smith ’20. After a turnover in the defensive zone, the Bulldogs broke out in a 3-on-2 in which Evan Smith slid a pass across the ice to his brother, who found the back of the net.
“When we were tied 2-2 we knew we were the better team, we just needed to execute on opportunities,” Mitchell Smith said. “Brown already stole the Friday game from us and we weren’t going to let that happen again. We stayed composed, because we knew what we were doing was going to pay off eventually, and it did.”
This time around, Brown had no answer to the Elis’ repartee and Snively tallied his second goal of the night to double the Yale advantage. As the clock wound down, Evan Smith added a late, empty-net goal to finalize the dominant 5–2 win.
The Elis have less than a week before traveling north to face off against No. 3 Harvard and Dartmouth in another week of conference play.
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