Steve Musco

No. 9 Clarkson dashed the Yale men’s hockey team’s hopes of an ECAC championship after downing the Elis 2–0 in a best-of-three series two weekends ago. The Bulldogs bowed out of the ECAC Hockey tournament at the quarter-final stage and ended their season with a .500 win record.

The Elis (15–15–3, 11–10–1 ECAC Hockey) could not match the firepower and skill of the Golden Knights (24–10–2, 12–3–1) in upstate New York. At the first game on Friday night, the hosts outdid the Blue and White 3–1 before turning up the heat even more in the 5–2 decider on Saturday. Yale fell victim to a ruthless side that cashed in on its opportunities, making the most out of man-advantages in both contests.

“It’s obviously tough to go down like that,” forward Luke Stevens ’20 said. “Dwelling on it won’t help us though, we need to let this sting a bit and then use it as fuel as we train this spring and summer. We need to make sure we won’t have this same feeling again next season.”

Clarkson came out of the traps early in the first game, scoring three goals in the first period to establish an unassailable lead. Golden Knight Josh Dunne stunned the Yale defense with a score four minutes into the game on a power play, before Nick Campaoli and Aaron Thow scored a mere 43 seconds apart midway through the opening frame.

Yale goalie Sam Tucker ’19, who was between the pipes for both games against Clarkson, did shut the door on the Potsdam side, stopping 24 shots on his net. Defenseman Jack St. Ivany ’22 gave the Elis a lifeline late on in the third when he five-holed the Golden Knight’s netminder with a wrister from the high slot, but it was too little too late.

Saturday’s do-or-die game also started off poorly for the Bulldogs. Clarkson jumped out to a 2–0 lead early on in the second but rallied to tie things up by the end of the middle period. Forward Ted Hart ’19 shot a low wrister past Clarkson’s Jake Kielly with 4:59 left in the frame before St. Ivany notched his second of the series with a rebound shot following a strong hit from far out by defenseman Chandler Lindstrand ’20.

That strike concluded Yale’s scoring in the contest, and Clarkson came back in the third to score thrice. Golden Knight Josh Dunne grabbed his second tally of the series, and with the Bulldogs forced to go on offense in search of a win, Clarkson grabbed two more. In a game of tight margins, Yale gave up eight penalties and went 0 for 5 on man-advantages, even as the Bulldogs outshot the hosts 34 to 30.

“I honestly thought we matched up against those guys really well. It just came down to playing a 60-minute game, which we struggled with all year,” goalie Corbin Kaczperski ’20 said. “Friday night we didn’t show up in the first, and they go up 3–0. Saturday, we just had to stay out of the box. They got three power play goals. We gave them too many chances. We knew it would be a tough series, and the games would be close. We just unfortunately came up short.”

But Yale can take solace in the fact that it lost to the eventual ECAC Hockey tournament champions, who went on to beat Cornell in the final. The Elis now have to focus on next year and build on the positives from this campaign.

Overall, the 2018–19 season is cause for cautious optimism. The Bulldogs made it a round further in the ECAC Hockey tournament than in 2018 and have solidified defensively, conceding 2.58 goals per game in contrast to 2.81 the year before. However, they are also losing star forward Joe Snively ’19, who signed for the NHL’s Washington Capitals this month.

“[These games] help us learn for next year to be prepared better and show a commitment to dedicated practice,” Kaczperski said. “We will regroup in the off-season, get stronger and faster, and be ready to go come next season.”

Yale last qualified for the NCAA tournament in the 2015–16 season.

Bill Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu