While the Yale men’s hockey team dropped a heartbreaker against No. 16 Quinnipiac to begin the weekend, the team impressively rebounded the next day to secure a critical 5–3 win over Princeton.
The Friday night Ingalls crowd witnessed Yale’s (10–12–1, 7–8–1 ECAC Hockey) best performance against No. 16 Quinnipiac (17–9–2, 10–4–2) in two years. Though the Bulldogs eventually fell 3–2, it was a game to remember with the Elis forcing the Bobcats into overtime. In the ensuing game against Princeton (3–16–4, 1–12–3 ECAC), the Bulldogs played with aggression — which translated into five goals on the scoresheet to secure a convincing 5–3 victory over the Tigers.
“I thought we played well all three periods, and it was a good hockey game. We got the game into overtime, and then they rolled one in off our goalie’s back,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said.
Good goalkeeping and a little bit of luck kept the Bobcats at bay. Merely 55 seconds after the first puck drop, Yale was already hot in pursuit of a victory. Forward Luke Stevens ’20 forced a turnover and made a pass to fellow forward Kevin O’Neil ’21 who tapped the puck past Quinnipiac defenders and into the crease. A video review showed forward Hayden Rowan ’23 notch his first career tally as the biscuit clipped off of his skate and through the gate of Bobcat netminder Keith Petruzzelli.
With seven minutes left in the first frame, the Bulldogs had put four more shots on goal than the Bobcats. Yet, Quinnipiac peppered goalie Corbin Kaczperski ’20 for those precious last few moments, and the Bobcats outshot Yale 11–10 by the end of the first. Kaczperski would go on to make 29 total blocks over the course of the contest, including several impressive saves that granted the Bulldogs a fighting chance.
Quinnipiac did not respond to the early Bulldog lead until the second frame when Bobcat forward Alex Wehlan netted the equalizer.
After the break, Quinnipiac stole the lead a couple minutes into the third period off of a rebound play which unanchored Yale’s net. The squad from Hamden immediately and vigorously attempted to nail another point and secure comfort in its lead, yet the Bulldogs thwarted the Bobcats’ momentum. With 2:47 of regulation time left, Yale captain and forward Evan Smith ’20 forced the game into overtime, generating boisterous cheers from the home crowd.
The Bobcats finally broke through just 18 seconds into the five minutes of allotted extra time. It was star forward Odeen Tufto who scored the winning mark.
With the season entering its final few weeks, Yale’s next game against Princeton — a team with the second worst record in the ECAC conference — felt like a must-win if the Bulldogs hoped to get their season back on track. Yet, 15 minutes into the contest, as the Tigers struck first with a shorthanded rebound, panic seeped into the Ingalls crowd. Not two minutes later, however, O’Neil, grabbing the puck at center ice, raced up the right side of the rink before side-skating past one defender and firing a rising wrister from the right hash to beat the outstretched glove of goalie Ryan Ferland.
“I got the puck in the neutral zone and thought I could catch my defender off guard if I stopped and went right back at him,” O’Neil said. “Luckily I got free, and the goalie was a little bit off his angle and I was able to make him pay. It really helped to settle the game down and reset everybody as we went right back to work.”
While both defenses held firm for the remainder of the period, the Tigers committed a five-minute major penalty with less than a minute left to go in the first. While the Elis failed to take advantage of the major to close out the frame, the Blue and White’s power play units skated into the second period with guns blazing. First up was forward Tyler Welsh ’21, who went top shelf from the lower-right hash to give his squad a 2–1 lead. Just 40 seconds later, forward Will D’Orsi ’20, grabbing a pass at the point, took a few strides and zipped a shot over the goalie to extend Yale’s lead to 3–1.
Yet, six minutes later, the Bulldogs were not finished scoring, even with both teams at full strength. It was O’Neil again, slapping home a beauty of a cross-zone breakout pass from defenseman Graham Lillibridge ’22. The score of 4–1 would hold for the remainder of the middle period.
While Princeton put more shots on goal in the first five minutes of the final frame, Kaczperski made a series of outstanding saves to keep the two-goal lead intact. With the Tigers continuing to put pressure on the Elis through the remainder of the period, as one would expect from a team down two scores, defenseman Mark Paolini eventually broke through for his Tigers — making it a one score game with just under a minute remaining in regulation. Princeton, now with newly kindled hope, was in full-blown attack mode to try and tie the game. To no avail, however, as Yale’s forward Justin Pearson ’22 iced the game with an empty-netter with 21 seconds remaining and secured the Bulldogs’ first ECAC win since January 18th.
“I liked how we played in the last 10 minutes,” Allain said. “Despite them getting one back with their goalie pulled, I thought we did a great job of managing the game and playing with confidence.”
Yale next takes the ice this coming weekend, traveling north to contest No. 17 Harvard and Dartmouth.
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