BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Though Yale failed to make it to the inaugural CT Ice Tournament final after losing 4–2 against No. 20 Sacred Heart on Saturday, the Bulldogs ended the weekend with a successful 3–2 stint against UConn.
SHU (16–8–2, 13–6–1 Atlantic), which went on to become the first ever CT Ice Tournament champion, tallied four goals in the first 15 minutes against Yale at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. The Elis (6–6–1, 9–10–0 ECAC Hockey) and the Pioneers went goal-for-goal in the remaining two periods, but the Blue and White could not shake off its rusty start. Earlier that day, No. 18 Quinnipiac (7–4–1, 14–9–1) defeated UConn (9–12–4, 6–7–2 Hockey East) 3–2 to secure its position in the final. On Sunday, the afternoon consolation game played between Yale and UConn ended with the Bulldogs on top, while Sacred Heart upset Quinnipiac to take home the crown later that night.
“UConn is a great team, and they pushed us to the absolute limit,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “They came out strong in the first period, and our goaltender did a great job of keeping us in the game until our guys got their legs underneath them — having played a late game last night and an early game today. After that, I really liked the way our team played … I wasn’t pleased with the way we played [Saturday] night, but Sacred Heart is a good team as well, and I thought they played an outstanding game.”
Things got off to an inauspicious start for the Elis against Sacred Heart. Yale, in the thralls of its own defensive zone on a Pioneer power play, conceded a goal three minutes into the opening period at the stick of opposing forward Jason Cotton. Less than two minutes later, forward Vito Bavaro got in on the scoring action for Sacred Heart, finding the exposed part of the goal to put his team up 2–0 just a quarter of the way through the period.
But the Pioneer scoring barrage would not stop there. Despite a Blue and White man advantage at the eight-minute mark of the first, forward Matt Tugnutt tallied his 13th goal of the season to put his Pioneers up 3–0. While the Bulldogs managed to buckle down defensively for the next seven minutes, forward Austin Magera would officially break the game open with a goal of his own. Before the game had even entered the second period, Sacred Heart looked to have it on ice with a 4–0 lead.
Yale was in no mood to give up. From the second period on, the Elis outshot the Pioneers 26–20 — quickly getting on the board a minute into the middle period with a goal from forward Dante Palecco ’21. Yet, the story of the game from that point on was the concession of untimely goals that thwarted any Bulldog hope of a miraculous comeback. Sacred Heart pounced on a Yale five-minute major to make the score 5–1. The defenses of both teams then held steady for most of the game, until the Pioneers tacked on another goal to what was now a 6–1 blowout. Forward Brett Jewell ’21 would give his Eli squad one more goal, as the final horn blared over a 6–2 loss by the sticks of the Pioneers.
Yale regrouped the next day to face off against the UConn Huskies.
“We knew we had to learn from our mistakes and put that [Sacred Heart] game to bed,” Palecco said. “We obviously intended to win the whole thing but we were prepared for the task of UConn and were excited for the new opportunity to win.”
Defense would again be a key theme of Sunday’s match, yet this time, luck sided with the Blue and White. Goalie Corbin Kaczperski ’20 helped keep a scoreless first period despite UConn significantly outshooting the Blue and White. The Huskies then broke the deadlock midway through the second, minutes after a Yale goal was overturned on review. It was a well-deserved goal. UConn had 23 shots on goal compared to Yale’s nine at this point in the game.
Allain commented on Kaczperski’s quick performance turnaround. The Yale netminder was replaced by Nicholas MacNab ’21 on Saturday after SHU registered its fourth goal.
“That’s a rare trait in an athlete, to be able to have an off game and come back and be the best player on the ice, so I’m really happy for [Kaczperski],” Allain said.
Forward Curtis Hall ’22 almost immediately retaliated after the Husky goal, evening the score three minutes later. From there, the Elis gained the upper hand, with forward Luke Stevens ’22 tipping in a shot from fellow forward Kevin O’Neil ’21 on a power play. Though UConn’s offense became visibly more aggressive in the third, Kaczperski and the Yale defense performed well, making tight saves and preventing the Huskies from registering on the board.
Forward Justin Pearson ’22 pushed the Bulldogs’ edge to 3–1 9:59 into the third off of a rebound shot from defenseman Matt Foley ’20.
UConn’s Carter Turnbull registered his second score of the week and set the score at 3–2 with a one-timer to the top shelf. The stage was now perfectly set for the Huskies to nail in a third goal and tie the score to push the game into overtime: UConn had pulled their goalie to make room for a sixth skater, and Yale forward Tyler Welsh ’21 sat in the box for a minor penalty. However, even with two men down, the Bulldogs defended their net and had two close shots on the open Husky goal for the final 91 seconds.
“Obviously, Saturday night didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, but my mindset didn’t change from one game to the next,” Kaczperski said. “I try to approach every game the same way, no matter what happened in the game before. Whether I play well or poorly, the mindset is always the same. I think that helps in trying to have those ‘turnaround performances’ after a poor game, and not letting a poor game slide into a string of poor performances. I give full credit to [coach Allain] for believing in me when I said that and having faith in me to go in and do my job for the team.”
The Bulldogs will compete in a pair of travel games at Clarkson and St. Lawrence this Friday and Saturday.
Jared Fel | firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaret Hedeman | email@example.com