The 2017–18 campaign for the Yale men’s hockey team has largely been defined by two things through the first five weeks: the worst power play in the country and overall inconsistency. While the Bulldogs managed to match their season goal total on man advantages this weekend, the Elis again failed to string together two successful performances in hopes of producing a four-point weekend.
The Bulldogs (4–7–0, 4–6–0 ECAC) suffered their first loss in their last four contests with Rensselaer (3–10–3, 2–5–1), after conceding a pair of third-period goals in the first game of their road weekend. One night later, however, Yale managed to notch its second victory over a nationally ranked team as forwards Ted Hart ’19 and Kevin O’Neil ’21 combined for all five of the Elis’ scores in their 5–3 win over No. 19 Union (9–7–1, 6–2–0).
“Our team wasn’t competing hard enough on Friday night, and that led to us blowing a third period lead,” Hart said. “We did an excellent job of bouncing back on Saturday and getting a win over a solid Union team. Hopefully we will be able to build off this weekend and put some wins together.”
The Elis came into Friday’s matchup riding a three-game winning streak against Rensselaer, a team which finished second to last in the 2016–17 conference standings. Goalie Corbin Kaczperski ’20 made his collegiate debut for Yale after nine consecutive starts by fellow netminder Sam Tucker ’19 to open the season. The 6-foot-3 goaltender did well in his first period of collegiate action, saving nine shots and staving off a late power-play opportunity by RPI to hold the opposition scoreless.
On the opposite end, the Bulldogs’ nation-worst power play failed to capitalize on a nearly four-minute 5-on-4 advantage following consecutive penalties by the Engineers, and the teams headed into the first intermission tied 0–0. The second period was more of the same, as Kaczperski tallied an additional 11 saves. Yale again proved unsuccessful in sneaking the puck past Rensselaer goalie Linden Marshall on another pair of power-play opportunities in the middle frame.
For the first time in five games, the Bulldogs — who entered the weekend 2-for-44 on power opportunities — finally scored on a man-advantage as Hart netted his first goal of the season to give the Elis a 1–0 lead, 53 seconds into the final frame. However, four Yale penalties in the remainder of third period proved too costly for the Bulldogs to overcome, despite the Elis’ nation-leading, shorthanded-scoring unit. Defender Jared Wilson and forward Viktor Liljegren each scored a power-play goal for the Engineers in the final eight minutes to escape with a one-goal victory. The 2–1 win ended a five-game losing streak for RPI, while Kaczperski finished the evening with 34 saves on 36 shots.
“[Corbin] did everything he needed to do to give us an opportunity to win on Friday night,” defender Billy Sweezey ’20 said. “Sadly we couldn’t get the result we wanted to give him, his first win, but it’s a performance he should be proud of. I know he’s a guy that will always be ready when he’s called upon to play.”
On Saturday, the Bulldogs saw their own five-game losing streak snap, however, as Hart led the team to a 5–3 win over Union. First years and sophomores lit the lamp for Yale just under seven minutes into Saturday night’s contest, when forward Luke Stevens ’20 sent a pass that O’Neil successfully converted into the first goal of the night. Six minutes later, Yale scored during a power play for just the fourth time this season. Hart, who tallied the Elis single goal in Friday’s match, capitalized on a Yale player advantage after Union defender Joseph Campolieto headed to the penalty box for hooking. The Dutchmen added a goal of their own to abridge the Bulldogs’ lead heading into the middle frame.
Hart tallied his second of three goals on the night during the second period, this time assisted by forward Joe Snively ’19 and Sweezey, to reclaim Yale’s two-goal lead. But, Union responded with a goal less than a minute later from forward Cole Maier to make it a one-goal game once again. The remainder of the period — marked by a handful of Yale penalties including a 10 minute game misconduct by forward Evan Smith ’20 — consisted of the Eli defense fending off Union power-play opportunities.
Forward Anthony Rinaldi, Union’s leading goal-scorer, sent an equalizer past Yale goaltender Sam Tucker ’19 just over a minute into the third period to tie the score at three. The game remained close until the final six minutes when the Bulldogs scored two-late goals to clinch the win. Hart completed his hat trick on an assist from defender Robbie DeMontis ’20 to put the Bulldogs ahead, and the O’Neil and Stevens duo-tallied its second goal on an empty-netter to finalize the scoreboard at 5–3.
“We won the special teams battle [on Saturday] and got more traffic in front of the opponent’s goalie,” O’Neil said. “We knew we played well leading up to that tying goal, so we stuck with what we were doing and eventually it paid off.”
The Bulldogs have little time for celebration after the top-20 win, as they face off against Sacred Heart in Bridgeport next Saturday.
Joey Kamm | email@example.com
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