Yale Athletics

After Quinnipiac ended Yale’s postseason dream last year, the men’s hockey team is determined to hit higher heights this season. One player who has taken this goal to heart is forward Kevin O’Neil ’21.

The sophomore from Latham, New York, has blossomed in the early goings of the campaign. In the team’s nine games so far, he has scored three goals and has had six assists for a cumulative nine points. These stats put him at second place on the team, after fellow forward Joe Snively ’19, who has 13 points. O’Neil is on pace to better his 2017–18 record in which he had seven goals, four assists and 11 points in 31 games. His first-year numbers were still second-best among all the Bulldogs’ rookies from that year.

“I think I’ve been lucky enough to have some personal success during our team’s success,” O’Neil said. “I hope we can keep it going throughout the season.”

The buildup to his ever improving performances began last year. In his rookie campaign, O’Neil registered two multiple-goal games and perhaps most memorably to the Yale faithful, tallied the game-winning score in the dying minutes of the 2–1 win against Harvard at home to round off the regular season. In terms of honors, he was named ECAC Rookie of the Week after a weekend series against Rensselaer and Union, in which he scored four goals. He also earned an Academic All-ECAC Hockey award.

Prior to Yale, O’Neil skated for the Madison Capitols and the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League in the 2016–17 season. He had 24 total points for Madison from nine goals and 15 assists in 43 games. He also tallied 11 points for Fargo in the 14 regular season games he played for them, scoring five times and assisting six goals, as well as assisting once in three playoff games.

After his clutch performance against the Crimson last year, head coach Keith Allain was confident that O’Neil could continue his development into a top player for the Elis.

“We think he has the potential to be an outstanding offensive player,” Allain said after the game to Yale Athletics. “The moves he made on the second goal were great; we knew he had that in him.”

One of O’Neil’s three goals this season came in the Elis’ 4–2 win against Colgate on Nov. 3 while the other two contributed to the 6–3 demolition of Connecticut in Ireland over Thanksgiving break. Less than five minutes after Colgate took advantage of a power play in the second period to reduce the deficit to 3–1, Yale confronted the Raiders four-on-four. With a wrist shot from the top of the left circle, O’Neil found the back of the net above Colgate goalkeeper Mitch Benson’s shoulder and widened the Elis’ margin of victory once again.

The match against UConn was even at 2–2 halfway through the second period before O’Neil scored twice consecutively, including the game winner, to pull Yale ahead in the offensive contest. The first goal came after forward Joe Snively ’19 snuck O’Neil the puck from behind the net, setting the New York native up for a tally in the top shelf. Just over a minute into the third period, O’Neil picked up a loose puck and knocked it home to give Yale a 4–2 lead, one that eventually widened to 6–3 following goals from Snively and forward Curtis Hall ’22.

This past weekend saw the Bulldogs dominate up north in New York, emerging undefeated against St. Lawrence and No. 16 Clarkson. The Elis were tied 1–1 in the close match against the favored Knights when O’Neil capitalized on a power play, sped into the Green and Gold’s zone to take their players out of position and fed a pass to forward Dante Palecco ’21. The fellow sophomore rose to the occasion with a well-aimed shot from the inside edge of the right circle, notching the game winner and extending Yale’s unbeaten streak to four games.

Yale’s next game is at 7 p.m. this Friday against Rensselaer.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu

Lucy Liu | l.liu@yale.edu