Following a 2–1 victory over Princeton on Friday, the Yale men’s hockey team failed to stave off No. 17 Quinnipiac at their home rink, falling to Bobcats a decisive 5–0.
The split weekend gave the Bulldogs (13–14–2, 10–10–2 ECAC Hockey) two league points, settling the Blue and White into seventh place in the conference. The Tigers (4–20–5, 2–16–4) finished 11th while Quinnipiac (21–11–2, 14–6–2) came in third behind No. 1 Cornell and No. 7 Clarkson. On Friday, the Elis clinched home ice for the first round of playoffs. The game against Princeton was decided when forwards Justin Pearson ’22 and Curtis Hall ’22 each registered on the board within a minute of one another during the middle period. On Saturday, the Bobcats chipped away at the Bulldogs, ultimately sweeping the visiting team with a five goal margin.
“Friday night at Princeton we showed good resilience to come back and win 2–1,” forward Luke Stevens ’20 said. “We were flat in the first and played a strong second and third period. Saturday was obviously a tough one. We have to move on from that and focus on Union next week, though.”
Since the Blue and White had already defeated Princeton earlier in February 5–3, the Elis stepped onto the ice in New Jersey brimming with confidence. The Tigers, however, ranked near the bottom of the league, did not give up another win easily. Princeton struck first and made the only successful shot of the entire first period when forward Finn Evans fired the puck from the slot through defenseman Jack St. Ivany ’22 and netminder Corbin Kaczperski ’20.
The two highest scoring Bulldogs, a sophomore duo, decided the game’s fate late in the second period when Pearson snuck in the equalizer off of a faceoff win by Hall. Fifty-eight seconds later, Hall made a break out run from the Yale side, passing and faking out three Princeton defensemen on the way. From the crease, the Ohio native wristed the biscuit past Tiger goalie Ryan Ferland to secure the lead.
Though Princeton peppered Kaczperski over the course of the game, outnumbering the Elis 34–30 for shots on goal, the Yale defensive line held tight to the 2–1 advantage through the final frame.
“I think our season had its ups and downs, and we learned from every aspect and really started to hit our flow state at the right time heading into the playoffs,” forward Dante Palecco ’21 said. “It’s a new season now, and we are confident in our group and excited for the task at hand with Union and are looking to make a big push for our end goal: a championship.”
On Saturday, the Elis outshot Quinnipiac 29–24 for the game, killing three out of four penalties with help from Kaczsperski’s netminding. Yet, the score reveals a 5–0 loss, the Bobcats’ largest shutout of Yale in program history.
The scoring barrage began midway through the first, with Bobcat forward Nick Jermain finding himself in just the right place to one time a rebound into the back of the net. While the Bulldogs managed to stave Quinnipiac off from tallying any more goals for the remainder of the period, the floodgates would soon open in the second.
Not one minute into the middle frame, on the only power play in which the Elis conceded a goal, an unguarded Bobcat snuck his way into the slot and was fed a clean assist from the left wing. A timely slap shot later and the score read 2–0. The goal also showcased the prowess of Bobcat Alex Whelan, who was responsible for both of the assists that led to the two goals. It was the first time in his collegiate career that Whelan has tallied more than one assist. In the third period, with score at 3–0, Whelan zipped down the rink, hit the brakes and fed a pass to his teammate stationed at the point. The ensuing one-timer did not fool Kaczperski, but an unlucky deflection gave Quinnipiac its fourth tally of the night.
While the Bobcats eventually closed out the game 5–0 to finish the season with 14 conference wins, the Blue and White, missing captain Evan Smith ’20, his brother and forward Mitchell Smith ’20 as well as a few other players, did enough this weekend to secure home-ice advantage in this year’s first round of the ECAC playoffs.
During the postseason, each team competes in a best of three games series. The top four ECAC opponents — Cornell, Clarkson, Quinnipiac and Rensselaer — each receive a bye.
“Playoffs are a fun time of the year because anything can happen,” Kaczperski told the News last year headed into the first round against RPI in which they won 4–1 and 4–0.
The puck will drop Friday at 7 p.m. against Union, who are ranked 10th in the league, in the first out of three potential games for the first round of playoffs.
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