A weekend that started off with high hopes ended with two consecutive defeats for the Yale men’s hockey team.
The Elis (13–11–3, 11–8–1 ECAC Hockey) found themselves sitting in third place coming into the weekend, just two points behind conference-leading No. 9 Cornell. The Bulldogs hit the road for matchups at Dartmouth and nationally ranked Harvard, looking to build on an excellent homestand the week prior as they attempted to catapult themselves to the top of the ECAC Hockey standings.
The disappointing displays in the 2–0 loss at Dartmouth (10–13–4, 9–8–3) and 3–0 defeat at No. 17 Harvard (16–8–3, 12–6–2) pushed the Bulldogs down to fifth, one place and two points out of the first round playoff bye. Yale’s speed game was unable to get going against two sides that played physical and smart hockey.
“Both games we were working hard, but we weren’t working smart,” goaltender Corbin Kaczperski ’20 said. “The effort was there, we just didn’t put it on the right areas of the game. Against Harvard, we had five penalties. They have one of the best power plays in the nation, it’s no surprise they converted on two of those. We have to be smarter if we want to have success next weekend.”
Friday night saw the Bulldogs fall by two goals to the Big Green. The game-winner for Dartmouth came just 45 seconds into the match when defender Brendan Less took a backhanded pass from teammate Matt Baker and slipped the puck into the slot. Yale made impressive offensive efforts, ultimately recording 28 shots on goal compared to Dartmouth’s 26, but Big Green goalie Adrian Clark denied all of the Bulldogs’ attempts in his first career shutout at Thompson Arena.
The second tally came almost halfway into the middle frame when Baker slammed home a rebound. Kaczperski stopped 24 of 26 shots, but the Bulldog offense could not convert on the other side of the ice. At 21 points, Dartmouth ranks sixth in the ECAC, just two points below Yale. Kaczperski did make a spectacular pad stop that was surely the best save of the game, however. The goalie blocked a shot from just outside of the crease to deny a well-worked tally from the Big Green.
“I was actually looking around the defenseman and forward in front through the screen, leaning to the wrong side,” Kaczperski said. “My defense made a great block and it happened to bounce right to Graber in front, who I realized was facing the other way and was probably going to spin and try to jam it in. I knew I had to take away the bottom of the net and I just lunged out and happened to read it right. Desperation save, for sure.”
The following night’s game against the rival Crimson saw the home squad go two for five on power-play opportunities en route to its 3–0 win. Bulldog netminder Sam Tucker ’19 turned aside an extraordinary 43 shots, but his effort was not enough to overcome the offensive shortcomings of Yale’s attack line. The Bulldogs were outshot 46–35 and failed to convert on any of their five-man advantages.
Crimson defender Jack Rathbone notched the first tally of the night off a feed from forward Jack Badini. The ensuing pair of goals came on five-on-four advantages for Harvard. Lewis Zerter-Gossage beat Tucker with an over-the-shoulder shot early in the second period. Teammate Reilly Walsh added insurance to the win with a one-timer, slapping the puck into the back of the net from an Adam Fox feed.
The two shutouts a week after scoring eight times in two games suggest that the Elis have more work to be done with only two games left in the regular season. Yale’s final ECAC weekend series is at home and features rivals Princeton and No. 5 Quinnipiac. The Bulldogs will look to earn a top-four finish after concluding this weekend with a pair of defeats. Regardless, the Elis have already locked up home ice for their first conference playoff series.
The puck drops against the Tigers on Friday at 7 p.m. at Ingalls Rink.
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