With ECAC conference playoffs just around the corner, the Yale men’s hockey team is looking to keep the momentum of last weekend’s victory as the squad commences battle against Harvard and Dartmouth.
On a weekend to remember, last Friday night saw the Elis’ (10–12–1, 7–8–1 ECAC Hockey) best performance against No. 16 Quinnipiac in two years. Though the Blue and White eventually fell in overtime, Yale came out firing on all cylinders against Princeton the following night. The Bulldogs played with consistent aggression through each period, translating into five goals on the scoresheet to secure a convincing victory over the Tigers. This upcoming weekend does not get any easier for the Elis, as they take on Harvard (11–8–4, 9–4–3 ECAC) on Massachusetts ice — a team that has handed them two of their worst losses of the season. Yale then travels 100 more miles north to Hanover the following day where a battle against Dartmouth (10–9–4, 7–7–2 ECAC) awaits.
“For us, our focus is to get better every day” defenseman Phil Kemp ’21 said. “We want to keep improving as a team so that we are playing our best hockey when playoffs come around. We know we can play with anyone in the league.”
In the Bulldogs’ most recent match against the Crimson — the annual Rivalry on Ice in New York — no Yale player was able to make any discernible mark on Harvard rookie netminder Mitchell Gibson, who contributed 27 out of 31 saves for the Crimson. While goalkeeper Corbin Kaczsperski ’20 kept his Blue and White in the game in the first period — conceding just one goal on 18 shots from the opposition, trouble began to brew early in the second period, when forward Jack Donato’s wrister from the left side of the crease made it to 2–0 on the scoreboard.
From there, the MVP of the night, forward Jack Drury, went on to score a hat trick, as the Crimson shut out the Bulldogs with a seven-point advantage.
“We are preparing [for Harvard] like it’s any other game,” Kaczsperski said. “At the end of the day, this game is going to be about us and sticking to our keys. We know they’re an opportunistic team on offense, so if we stay strong defensively, and get our forecheck going in the offensive zone, it will be a good game.” Last weekend against Dartmouth, it was Drury and Gibson again providing late game heroics to seal Harvard’s second win in three games and fifth straight against the Big Green.
With a score of 3–1 in the Crimson’s favor heading into the final period of play, Dartmouth found the back of the net early in the frame to make it a one-score game with over 15 minutes to play. While the Big Green aggressively put pucks on net down the stretch, Gibson made save after stellar save to keep his team in front. Drury took care of the rest, leading a breakaway down the left wing before slapping the biscuit through the top shelf past the outstretched goalie to make it a 4–2 contest. Two empty netters later, Harvard skated off victorious with a ninth ECAC victory under its belt.
It has been nearly three months since Yale and Dartmouth shared the ice together. In a thriller of a game, the Bulldogs had the Big Green on the ropes for a majority of the contest. In the first two frames, the Bulldogs aggressively took to the offense and struck home first. Yet Dartmouth responded time and time again, lighting the lamp following each Yale point. With the score tied 3–3 as time began to wind in the final period, Big Green’s forward Will Graber dished out his second game-winning goal of the season to secure a 4–3 decision.
While Dartmouth enters Saturday’s match one notch above Yale in ECAC standings, the former is winless in its last five games dating all the way back to Jan. 18. Prior to this losing spurt, Dartmouth had played to a 10–5–3 record while averaging a whopping 3.11 goals a game in the process. That average has dropped to 2.20 a night over these past five games, however. Dartmouth this season has possessed the fourth highest scoring offense in the ECAC and has enjoyed its fair share of high-scoring barn burners this season.
The Blue and White will need Kaczsperski to be on his game this weekend against two of the highest scoring teams in the ECAC. Last weekend, the netminder did a great job to hold the No. 16 Bobcats to two goals in 60 minutes of regulation, while also helping the Bulldogs overcome an early deficit against Princeton — keeping it a one-score deficit before his teammates tallied four straight times to put the game on ice.
“It feels great,” forward Kevin O’Neil ’21 said in regards to his three-point weekend. “I’m happy with the win [against Princeton]. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the results we wanted [against Quinnipiac]. It definitely feels like we’re going in the right direction heading into the last stretch here, so that’s always good.”
Yale is set to face off against both Harvard and Dartmouth at 7:00 p.m. in the penultimate road trip of the regular season.
Jared Fel | firstname.lastname@example.org