The Yale men’s ice hockey team secured third place at the Friendship Four tournament in Ireland this Thanksgiving break after a 6–3 win against UConn coming on the heels of an overtime tie with Union.
Established in 2015, the Friendship Four tournament is held annually in Belfast, where a quartet of Division I hockey teams compete for the Belpot Trophy. This year, the Bulldogs (3–2–2, 2–2–1 ECAC Hockey) took on a field including UConn (5–8–1, 2–6–1 Hockey East), Union (8–3–2, 3–3–0 ECAC Hockey) and Boston University (4–6–1, 4–3–1 Hockey East). After a week of sightseeing and practice, the Bulldogs hit the ice against the Dutchmen last Friday before a big crowd at SSE Arena. Following a 1–1 overtime shootout in which Union prevailed, Yale faced Connecticut the next morning to compete for the third-place spot, which it secured in an overwhelming 6–3 victory.
“It was a great weekend for us,” goaltender Corbin Kaczperski ’20 said. “I thought we finally came together and played the right way. The Union game was a great one against a good conference team, and we are going to have two more competitive games against them this year. Ireland was awesome. It was so cool to experience another culture for a week, and everyone was very welcoming over there. We are all excited to get back home though.”
Friday’s match against Union saw the Dutchmen snatch an early lead at 1:48 when forward Sam Morton intercepted the puck in his own zone before passing it to forward Jack Adams, who fired it past Kaczperski to notch the game’s opening goal. Undeterred, Yale exerted heavy pressure on the opposing defense over the course of all three periods, peppering goalie Darion Hanson with 32 shots compared to Union’s 23.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were unable to convert on the promising chances and entered the third period trailing 1–0. Forward Kevin O’Neil ’21 attempted a wraparound that was stick checked by Hanson on the doorstep, forward Joe Snively ’19 aimed for the five-hole only to have it denied and defense Charlie Curti’s ’19 shot from the high slot, which was again deflected by Hanson.
The Elis finally converted on a power play midway through the third period to tie the game 1–1. The sequence began with forward Tyler Welsh’s ’21 pass to defenseman Graham Lillibridge ’22, who fired it low to Curti. The senior blueliner redirected the feed over the glove side of Hanson to tie the score and send the game into overtime.
After a scoreless extra frame, the two teams headed to a shootout to determine who would advance to the Friendship Four final. Dutchman Brendan Taylor and forward Evan Smith ’20 scored their opening shots, while Brett Supinski and defenseman Jack St. Ivany ’22 were denied on their opportunities. Adams found the back of the net before Hanson denied Snively to secure Union a spot in the championship game the next day. Meanwhile, Yale was relegated to a third-place match against UConn.
“I would say we played well against Union,” defenseman Phil Kemp ’21 said. “We played a hard, full 65 minutes. Our forwards did a great job hounding their defenseman in their zone. We had them on their heels because of our team speed. That is the strength of our team, well coached with hard-working players. We knew we would have to play a complete game against them. The outcome was not what we wanted, but it gives us confidence going into the next time we play them knowing we can play our game and have success against them.”
The following afternoon, the Bulldog faced the Huskies, falling into another early deficit. Miles Gendron poked UConn into a 1–0 lead at the end of the first frame. However, Yale’s never-give up mentality did not slip for a second as the Elis rallied early on in the middle frame to pull ahead 2–1. Forward Luke Stevens ’20 leveled the score at one apiece before fellow forward Brett Jewell ’21 stabbed the Bulldogs into the lead. However, the Huskies knotted things up at 2–2 midway through the period on a power-play goal.
With the game tied, O’Neil stepped up to produce his season-high offensive output. The sophomore scored the next two tallies of the game — a top shelf score midway in the second and a loose puck pick-up two minutes into the third — to give the Elis a lead that they would never relinquish.
The Bulldogs further ramped up their dominance of the puck with late goals by Snively and forward Curtis Hall ’22 following a score by UConn halfway into the final frame. The final horn sounded to signal a resounding 6–3 victory. Goalie Sam Tucker ’19 also posted an impressive performance at the net with 34 saves and five successful penalty kills on six power-play opportunities.
“We got scoring from all four lines,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “It takes a lot of pressure off you when you put pucks in the net.”
After notching seven goals in Northern Ireland, the team turns its attention to its upcoming matches against St. Lawrence and Clarkson this Friday and Saturday in upstate New York.
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