Steve Musco

In a thrilling weekend on the road for Yale men’s hockey, the team returned to New Haven with three valuable conference points to earn the Elis a share of first place in the ECAC Hockey standings.

No. 20 Yale (10–7–3, 8–4–1 ECAC Hockey) journeyed to upstate New York to first face No. 16 Union (12–7–4, 5–6–1) in a tough contest that saw the Bulldogs fall 4–3 in overtime before they rebounded with a slick 3–2 win at Rensselaer (7–17, 4–9). The Elis now sit at the top of the conference with No. 12 Cornell at 17 points, although the Big Red have played one fewer game.

“Friday night was a tough game for us,” defenseman Phil Kemp ’21 said. “Saturday we played well, we were down a couple of men so it took everyone on the team to pull out the win. It was gut check time for us. We knew in the locker room it was a must win game. I think we blocked 24 shots in the game. It was a huge catalyst for us winning that game. We have a shift by shift mentality. We’re focused on that.”

The Bulldogs had a bevy of offensive opportunities on Friday night against Union. Forward Joe Snively ’19 grabbed the first goal of the evening with his second shorthanded tally of the season midway through the second frame. Forward Robbie DeMontis ’20 then scored the Elis’ next two to equal his career high early on in the third as Yale enjoyed a 3–1 advantage late in the third period.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the back half of the final period proved to be costly. The Dutchmen offense came up with two goals in the final seven minutes to tie things up at 3–3 at the end of regulation. Union then won it all 1:50 into the extra frame off Anthony Rinaldi’s second goal of the night. The Elis failed to remain undefeated against the nationally ranked Dutchmen this season after a 1–1 tie in Ireland and a 3–0 win in New Haven.

The Blue and White then rolled on to Troy, N.Y., for Saturday night’s game against RPI in a packed house. The two-point win catapulted Yale to the top of the conference. The Bulldogs opened the scoring later on in the first on a one-time finish by forward Dante Palecco ’21, the result of some brilliant work by the fourth line of forwards Mitchell Smith ’20 and Will D’Orsi ’20.

The Engineers evened things up before the end of the first but the Bulldogs were once again ahead midway through the middle period. DeMontis notched his third tally of the weekend on a goal assisted by Snively and forward Tyler Welsh ’21. The score remained 2–1 until the end of the frame, despite a laborious five-minute major power play in favor of RPI.

“This past week we just really worked on focusing on the next shot and stopping that instead of worrying about the goals that went in before or anything else that’s going on,” goalie Corbin Kaczperski ’20 said.

Forward Justin Pearson ’22 then increased Yale’s lead to 3–1 midway through the third and although the Engineers found another goal, they were simply unable to force overtime in the 3–2 defeat.

Kaczperski played well in net as he stopped 30 shots in a game where the Bulldog offense found itself outshot by more than 10 attempts. The junior also survived two minutes of 6-on-5 hockey with an empty RPI net to exit Houston Field House with his fifth win of the season.

“This week I had several conversations with [assistant] coach [Josh] Siembida about the mental side of my game and staying in the moment,” Kaczperski said. “This obviously has not been a great season for me and it’s because I’ve been trying to do too much. I’ve been focusing on too many things and trying to overthink the game and it clearly hasn’t been working. I have confidence in myself that I can help make a difference for the team and give us a chance to win.”

The Bulldogs return home this coming Friday to face off against Ivy rivals Brown at Ingalls Rink.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu