After defeating Brown 3–2 at home in their season opener, the Yale men’s hockey team fell to the Bears 5–1 to split the weekend.
The Bulldogs (1–1, 1–1 ECAC Hockey), who opened the regular season against Brown (1–1, 1–1 ECAC Hockey) for the third year in a row, completely dominated from opening faceoff to the final horn. In a game where the Elis never trailed, it was forward Curtis Hall ’22 who struck first for the Blue and White. Halfway through the first period, Hall fired in a rebound to give the team a 1-0 lead. Two minutes later, forward Mitchell Smith ’20 got in on the scoring action with a wrister from a behind-the-net feed.
After the Bears responded immediately with a rifle of a shot past goalie Corbin Kaczperski ’20, both offenses were held in check for several minutes. But Hall made his presence felt on the ice again with a perfectly aimed, low-slot shot that rendered the score 3–1. The Bears retaliated with a power play goal, but the Elis blocked three shots down the stretch to secure a 3–2 victory.
The Bulldogs then hit the road, hoping to exert their dominance in Providence. Yale’s inability to stay out of the penalty box and a 34–25 shot deficit, however, was a recipe for defeat. While the Blue and White managed to level the game in the middle period, Brown found the net four times on four ensuing power plays over the last frame and a half to secure a 5–1 win and a split of the weekend series.
“For the first game of the year, both teams played really well,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I really liked our pace of play. And the way it ended … I think most of the games we play this year are going to be one-goal games right down the stretch, so it was good to get that test and survive it early.”
The season opener began with strong defensive play from both teams, particularly with backchecking that prevented several breakouts from translating into goals. No matter, the Bulldogs that struck first. Forward Justin Pearson ’22 led a breakout from Yale’s end, and Hall cleaned up the rebound from Brown goalie Gavin Nieto’s block to score.
Less than two minutes later, the Elis wasted no time in extending their lead. With the dump and chase in full effect for Yale, defenseman Phil Kemp ’21 managed to gain possession of the puck behind the net, before delivering a beautiful, around-the-net assist to inside the house. Mitchell Smith then did the rest, delivering a perfect slapshot to three-hole Nieto and give the Blue and White a 2–0 advantage.
The Elis demonstrated impressive power play kills in the first period.
“Honestly, I thought that the guys in front of me did it all — they made my job easy all night. I didn’t feel great out there, but they were blocking shots,” Kaczperski said.
The Bears, however, did not allow things to get too out of hand. Forward Chris Berger managed to coral a pass and feed rookie Nathan Plessis, who had positioned himself on the other side of the slot. A wrist shot to the two-hole was all it took to make it a one score game. It was not until midway through the second when the Bulldogs answered back on a beautifully designed offensive play. After winning the faceoff in their own zone, defenseman Jack St. Ivany ’22 took charge in leading the attack to Browns own zone, before dishing it out to Hall in the slot. Hall, with just the goalie to beat, deked right then left and delivered a backhand shot that Nieto had no chance to make a play on.
“We really just try to practice like we play,” Hall said. “I thought we were pretty physical and just hard on pucks. Especially on our first night, we just wanted to focus on playing hard and so we really dialed in on that — getting pucks in the net. I think that once they got a little closer, 3–2, we battled back hard and did what we needed. We were tired at the end of the third, but we fought through it. That’s what we have to do every night.”
While the Bears did make things more interesting at 8:21, in the final period, with a power-play goal, the 3-2 score remained the same for the rest of the game. While the Bears managed to set up several scoring opportunities for themselves, it was to no avail.
A day later, the Elis traveled to Providence to square off against the Bears yet again, but for this go-around, Brown took advantage of numerous power plays to get out ahead and defeat the Bulldogs 5–1.
The Bears took fiercely to the ice, with forward Justin Jallen scoring a hat-trick for Bruno. Forward Michael Maloney assisted in all three of Jallen’s tallies. With the Bears up 1–0 after the first period, Forward Cole Donhauser ’23 rattled off an unassisted shot to tie it up at 1–1. This relief, however, was temporary and Jallen netted his second goal during a 5–4 power play. Yet another penalty put Kemp in the box, and Brown’s Chris Berger pushed the Bears’ edge out to 3–1 at the end of the second period.
Brown outshot Yale 13–7 in the third and gave the Bears an offensive advantage that led to two more goals in the third period. Defenseman Billy Sweezey ’20, forced into the box, allowed Brown another power play. A similar situation occurred at 13:32 when Kemp, penalized by high sticking, sat in the box while Brown scored the last goal of the match.
Despite the increased box time and low number of shots on goal, Yale’s players said they are excited to get the season rolling.
“It’s awesome to get out there, get the rust out and have some fun again,” Kaczperski said.
This season’s preliminary match-ups mimicked the 2017 season with one win and one loss in back-to-back games against the Bears over the course of a weekend. Last year, Bruno beat out Quinnipiac in the ECAC quarter-finals but were bested by Cornell in the semis.
The Bulldogs face off against Colgate and Cornell next weekend on the road.
Jared Fel | firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaret Hedeman | email@example.com