Even before three ECAC Hockey conference members appeared in the nation’s top 10 this week, the strength of the conference proved itself in last weekend’s clashes at Ingalls Rink.
The Yale men’s hockey team has not found itself on the winning side of the scoreboard since the season opener against Brown. Most recently, the Bulldogs fell to two Ancient Eight foes — Dartmouth 4–3 and No. 10 Harvard 6–1.
Though the Blue and White (1–5–0, 1–5–0 ECAC Hockey) was unable to clinch either victory at The Whale, the Big Green (3–2–1, 3–1–1) was on the defensive for the majority of the Friday game. In the first two frames, the Bulldogs aggressively took to the offense and struck home first. Yet Dartmouth responded, lighting the lamp following each Yale point. With the score tied 3–3 and with one minute and 25 seconds left to go in the final period, the Big Green’s forward Will Graber dished out his second game-winning goal of the season to secure the 4–3 decision.
Against rival Harvard (5–0–0, 5–0–0), the Blue and White faced tougher competition, battling an undefeated team that’s fared well against top tier opponents. The Bulldogs outshot Harvard 42–28, yet Old Eli had trouble breaking through the Crimson’s defensive line. The Elis found the back of the net only once, breaking Harvard’s potential shutout. The Crimson led 5–0 until forward Mitchell Smith ’20 finally got the home team on the board with a slapshot from the slot.
“I thought it was really a pretty even game in every measure probably except for the goals,” head coach Keith Allain said of the Dartmouth matchup. “I thought we had them in the ropes at the end of the second period, and then when we came out in the third, we kind of let them off the ropes a little. They took advantage, and they got the go-ahead goal. I thought we responded well. Then they got that one late, and that was the game.”
A sophomore pair with defenseman Jack St. Ivany ’22 and forward Justin Pearson ’22 struck first for Yale when Pearson redirected St. Ivany’s shot over netminder Adrian Clark’s right shoulder. The Big Green responded 102 seconds later, and forward Drew O’Connor, the 2018–19 leading ECAC scorer among rookies, made it past Corbin Kaczperski ’20 with a wraparound shot.
Forward Tyler Welsh ’21 reignited the scoreboard for the Elis in the second period. Defenseman Billy Sweezey ’20 made an excellent block from forward Quin Foreman, who attempted a shot on Yale. Welsh gained control after receiving the pass from Sweezey, and the Canadian blasted the puck into the top left shelf to lead 2–1.
“I thought our fore-checking was really good,” Allain said. “For periods of the game we created a lot of offensive pressure … we had Dartmouth on the backs of their heels.”
The second period ended with a neutral score, with Dartmouth recording a power-play goal only 61 seconds after Welsh’s attack.
The Big Green switched up the rhythm of the game in the third when Foreman found himself with an open path to the net and railed the puck into the one-slot. Though Yale demonstrated trouble getting the puck to slow down around the Dartmouth end, forward Dante Palecco ’21 managed to tie it up 3–3 with assists from Sweezey and captain Evan Smith ’20. Yet, the Big Green pulled off the winner when O’Connor carried the puck down the ice and found Graber, who sailed the biscuit over Kaczperski’s glove.
“While we didn’t get the results we wanted, we felt like we played some good hockey over the weekend,” defenseman Matt Foley ’20 said. “We created a lot of chances but need to eliminate costly mistakes from our game.”
Entering the weekend, the Bulldogs’ ambition was to play a more consistent game. Against Dartmouth, that is exactly what they did. The Blue and White and the Big Green posted similar statistics over the course of the game, yet the late Dartmouth goal gave the Elis little time to respond.
Saturday witnessed a different narrative, as the Crimson, currently ranked first in the league, shut out the first two frames and part of the third 5–0 before the Bulldogs managed to find the back of the net on a power play. Harvard ultimately clinched the victory 6–1. The Crimson has scored first in every game thus far, and the team has averaged 5.4 goals per matchup.
Mitchell Smith scored the lone goal for the Elis on Saturday night, with assists from his twin, forward Evan Smith, and St. Ivany. Goalie Nicholas MacNab ’21 also saw some playing time on Saturday in the final period and made three saves.
Though Harvard is ranked 10th nationally while Cornell places second, the Crimson leads the league since the school from Cambridge has played five conference matches to the Big Red’s two.
The Blue and White tallied more than double the number of shots on goal in the second period, but goalie Cameron Gornet registered 41 saves to maintain the Crimson’s perfect record — the best record Harvard has acquired since the 1988–89 season.
“We’ve been talking in the past couple weeks obviously doing video … to fix little things in our structure, and as players, looking at what we need to do better to score more goals and win some games,” forward Kevin O’Neil ’21 said.
The Bulldogs will remain on home ice next weekend as they face off against St. Lawrence and Clarkson on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Margaret Hedeman | firstname.lastname@example.org