The Yale men’s hockey team won its second of three games against Union on Sunday in double overtime, sending the Bulldogs into the ECAC Hockey Tournament quarterfinals.
The Blue and White (15–15–2, 10–10–2 ECAC Hockey) shut out the Dutchmen (8–25–3, 5–15–2) twice during the regular season, but Union brought a new caliber of competition to Ingalls Rink for its postseason campaign. On Friday, in the premiere match of the first round playoffs, the Dutchmen flipped the switch, shutting out the Bulldogs 3–0 on their home ice at Ingalls. One day later, the two conference foes returned to the rink, and Union netminder Darion Hanson managed to make it through another 40 minutes without letting in any Yale pucks. Undeterred, the Elis continued to pepper the Dutchman net, and their efforts eventually came to fruition in the final period. From there, an onslaught of Yale shots finally found the back of the net, and the Bulldogs skated off with a 4–1 victory. In the last game of the series, the Blue and White outshot the Dutchmen 52–21, yet the scoreboard remained locked at 1–1 until forward Graham Lillibridge ’22 netted the game winning goal three minutes into double overtime.
“I told [the players] that they had to be mentally tough enough to stick with the plan,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “What they were doing was working. It wasn’t working yet on the scoreboard, but it was working, and sometimes in sports you’ve got to fight human nature … someone maybe wants to do it by himself or be the difference maker, but you’ve got to just play as a team, stick together.”
Though Allain told the News that he believed that the Blue and White played well enough to secure a win on Friday, Union’s timely deflection, rebound and open netted goal paved the way for a 3–0 shutout.
The Bulldogs retired to the locker room with 24 hours before they would have to contend with Union for the second time in the best of three series.
Union registered first on the board only five and a half minutes into the first period of the second game, and two periods later, the Dutchmen appeared as though they were the favorites to move onto the next round in the playoffs. The first 40 minutes of play was riddled with power plays, empty nets and incredible scoring opportunities on both sides. Yet, Union still held a one point edge over the Bulldogs after two full periods of play.
Though the Blue and White outshot 29–18 by the end of the middle frame, the Bulldogs were hindered by the Union defensive line. On the Yale side, the Bulldogs managed to kill multiple power plays, with netminder Corbin Kaczperski ’20 keeping the Elis in the match with a couple of highlight worthy saves.
Though Allain mentioned his frustration that emerged from heading into the final period down a point, he was still pleased with the way that Yale was playing.
“I thought we were generating chances, and the message really was: don’t deviate from the plan,” Allain said.
Only 19 minutes left to prevent Union from advancing to the quarterfinals, and forward Kevin O’Neil ’21 finally broke Yale’s eight period scoreless streak, giving the Bulldogs a fighting chance in the final frame.
The floodgates opened.
One minute later, defenseman Jack St. Ivany ’22 deflected a Union pass to forward Cole Donhauser ’23 who gained control of the puck with his glove and tossed an assist to forward Curtis Hall ’22. Hall faked out a single defender, leaving the Dutchman sprawled out on the ice while the Ohio native easily slipped the biscuit past Hanson on the lower stick side.
“It felt great obviously … it gave a lot of energy to our team and some momentum which we needed for sure,” Hall said. “O’Neil started it off, and then it kind of just steam rolled from there, and we were able to shoot on the goalie where he was weak.”
Hall, securing the one point advantage for the Bulldogs, tallied his second goal of the night 13 minutes later, making a backwards left turn around a defender and wristing the puck into the Union net from the left end zone faceoff spot. Though the Elis had a comfortable 3–1 lead at this point, defenseman Phil Kemp ’20 registered his second goal of the season within the last 90 seconds of play to finalize the scoreboard at 4–1.
The final game of the series started out similarly, with Union netting the first goal of the match six minutes in. In the middle period, forward Brett Jewell ’21 tallied the equalizer, battling to win a faceoff for Yale possession and then tipping in a wrist shot by St. Ivany. Yale had Union on the backs of its heels in the last period, and the Bulldogs had several golden attempts including a shot on an open net from the crease by forward Teddy Wooding ’23 which ended up ricocheting off the crossbar.
Neither defensive side succumbed to offensive pressure until nearly 40 minutes later. Early on in the second round of overtime, Union’s forward Gabriel Seger seemingly stole the series from the Elis, yet the referees called goalie interference on defenseman Vas Kolias after much deliberation.
“I knew I got hit right away,” Kaczperski said. “It kind of hit my stick, so I couldn’t go down, and the guy shoved it through my legs, but I was relieved that the [referee] was yelling no goal, and that he saw it.”
Yale, outshooting the Dutchmen by 243 percent up until this point, finally clinched its ticket to the quarterfinals when Lillibridge fired the puck from just outside the faceoff circle into the top shelf, sending the Ingalls crowd into a frenzy.
Though it took three games and then some, the pair of victories sends the Bulldogs into the next round of the tournament which will take place in Hamden against No. 14 Quinnipiac.
“Their guy got the puck behind the net and tried to clear it,” Lillibridge said. “I think he kind of fanned on it a little bit, put it right on my tape, and I just had some time and space to walk it in. I got my head up, and they had a guy come in and try and block it, but I was able to get around him … we got a second life, and we made the most of it.”
The puck will drop for the first game in another best-of-three series for the ECAC Hockey Tournament Quarterfinals next Friday at 7 p.m.
Margaret Hedeman | firstname.lastname@example.org