The Yale men’s hockey team had defeated Dartmouth in its past four contests and repeatedly lost to Harvard over the same number of games. But this weekend, the tables turned, as the Bulldogs defeated No. 3 Harvard before falling to Dartmouth the following night.
The Elis (2–2–0, 2–2–0 ECAC) knocked off nationally-ranked Harvard (2–1–0, 2–1–0) 5–2 in the program’s highest-profile win of the past two seasons, receiving goals from five different players including four underclassmen. But on Saturday night, all that positive momentum came to a grinding halt in a 3–1 loss to Dartmouth (2–2–0, 2–2–0). Big Green goaltender Devin Buffalo recorded 25 saves on 26 shots to thwart the Yale offense and secure the victory.
“It was a humbling experience beating Harvard, then losing to Dartmouth the following night,” forward Ted Hart ’19 said. “It reminded us that we can’t take any games for granted in our league and we need to to prepare and execute to the best of our ability every night we play.”
Boasting a squad of talented rookies, Harvard entered Friday night’s matchup expected to repeat as ECAC champions. But the lofty expectations surrounding the Crimson did not seem to faze the Elis as the puck dropped in Cambridge. Forward Mitchell Smith ’20 lit the lamp with a goal seven and a half minutes into the game. Building on Smith’s momentum, forward Robbie DeMontis ’20 scored his second career goal with assists from Ted Hart and forward Luke Stevens ’20 just 26 seconds later.
But the Crimson quickly eliminated its two-goal deficit in the opening minutes of the middle frame. The team’s lone goals of the night came within four minutes of each other. After forward Jake Horton scored the Crimson’s opening goal, Yale was penalized for having too many players on the ice and Harvard capitalized on the power-play opportunity. The team’s assist leader, forward Adam Fox, found fellow forward Lewis Zerter-Gossage, who slipped the puck past goaltender Sam Tucker ’19 to tie the game five minutes into the second period.
Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen had yet to allow three goals in a game since facing the Elis in the conference playoffs last season, but Yale snapped his streak 28 minutes into the game. Forward Luke Stevens ’20 sent the third shot of the night past Madsen on an assist from DeMontis, regaining the lead for the Bulldogs.
“The puck was rimmed up the wall and their defenseman fell,” DeMontis said. “ I was able to pick the puck up with speed and feed it over to Stevie. He made an incredible play by picking it up on his backhand and finding the net.”
In the final minutes of the second period, the Elis captain and forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 notched his first goal of the 2017–18 season.
Yale defenders Charlie Curti ’19 and Anthony Walsh ’19 played a key role in the Eli victory, keeping Harvard’s leading scorer Ryan Donato and first-year phenom Reilly Walsh away from the net as the Crimson tried desperately to equalize.
The final goal of the contest came from Eli forward Kevin O’Neil ’21, who scored his first collegiate goal to seal Yale’s three-goal win.
However, the Bulldogs would fail to build on what could have been a season-defining victory when they traveled to Thompson Arena to take on Dartmouth on Saturday. After beating the Big Green four times last season by a combined score of 20–3, Yale lost 3–1, despite outshooting their opponent 26–16.
The Bulldogs set themselves behind early in the game by committing four penalties in the first 20 minutes of play after being whistled for just four total infractions the previous night. After defenders Adam Larkin ’18 and Billy Sweezey ’20 were called for tripping and slashing penalties less than a minute apart, Dartmouth took advantage of the five-on-three opportunity just 12 seconds later when forward Alex Jasiek scored to give his team an early 1–0 advantage.
Following a penalty kill by Yale on another five-on-three power play opportunity, forward Joe Snively ’19 scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway chance to level the scoring late in the first period. But the Big Green would reclaim the lead in the second stanza when forward Charley Michalowski fired a shot past Tucker to give the home squad its second goal despite recording just nine shots in the first two periods of action.
Facing a 2–1 deficit, the Bulldogs failed to score on four power-play opportunities in the final 20 minutes against Dartmouth, a team that ranked last in penalty kill and conceded the second-most power play goals in the ECAC during the 2016–17 season. A late score on a shorthanded goal by forward Daniel Warpecha sealed the Elis’ fate in the 3–1 defeat.
Buffalo, who posted the lowest save percentage in the conference last season, played one of the best games of his career to help Dartmouth notch its second straight victory, its first two-win weekend since beating Yale in the ECAC quarterfinals in 2016. Yale has now lost two games this season in which it has outshot its opponent.
“Against Dartmouth, we worked hard, but didn’t make good decisions with the puck,” Curti said. “We lost a lot of opportunities to score due to poor decision making, and it cost us against a hard-working Dartmouth team.”
Yale will be back at home next weekend as the Bulldogs play host to St. Lawrence and No. 13 Clarkson at Ingalls Rink.
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