MEN’S HOCKEY: Blue and White post winless first weekend at home
In their first homestand of the season, the Bulldogs falter in back-to-back defeats to Quinnipiac and Princeton.
After its first weekend of play in front of a home crowd, the Yale men’s hockey team (0–3–0, 0–3–0 ECAC) remains on the hunt for a win after dropping a pair of matches to Quinnipiac (7–1–2, 1–0–0) and Princeton (2–1–0, 2–0–0).
Despite starting off the season with three straight losses, the Bulldogs are hoping that the rough start will be the motivation the team needs to bounce back and be competitive for postseason play.
“It’s just every day having the expectation that, although we might not be there right now, we’re going to keep building and working towards [the national championship],” captain Graham Lillibridge ’22 said ahead of the season opener.
For much of the home opener, the Bulldogs found themselves spending time in their own zone. While Quinnipiac succeeded in generating plenty of opportunities off the opening face-off, the Blue and White remained diligent on the defense, blocking a total of eight shots in the period. Quinnipiac forward Jayden Lee, however, was able to net in the game’s opening goal at 16:10 on a shot to sophomore goaltender Nathan Reid’s ’24 blocker-side.
A face-off violation committed by the Bobcats put the Elis on the power play early in the second period. While Yale gained another one-man advantage later on in the frame, the special teams unit was held to only one shot between the pair of opportunities. Although the Bulldogs’ Whitney Avenue rivals also had a few looks on two power plays of their own, the Blue and White were able to kill off both.
A scoreless second frame sent the match into the third with Quinnipiac’s lone goal on the board. One minute into the period, a faceoff win by Wyatt Bongiovanni allowed Ethan de Jong to extend the Bobcats’ lead with a blast from the left face-off dot. After Reid was pulled in the final minutes of the period, an empty netter for Quinnipiac secured a 3–0 shutout over the Elis.
“I think a lot of guys are getting used to the pace, playing with each other, getting used to Coach Allain’s systems,” Reid told the New Haven Register. “Even from our preseason games, to last week against Brown, to tonight, I can see the chemistry getting better and better.”
Saturday night’s matchup against fellow Ivy League squad Princeton featured a much different-looking game for the Bulldogs. While a shorthanded goal, a powerplay opportunity and a two-on-one break on a delayed penalty put the Tigers up by three after the opening frame, the Blue and White came out flying in the second period.
While the Elis found much better chances after the first intermission and outshot Princeton 23–19 by the conclusion of the second frame, another odd-man rush cushioned the Tiger’s lead. Three minutes after Princeton’s fourth tally of the night, center Niklas Allain ’24 found the back of the net for his first career goal and Yale’s first goal of the season.
Looking to build off the momentum generated by Allain in the second, the Bulldogs entered the final frame hungry for a comeback. Despite a few solid scoring opportunities for the Blue and White early in the period, a goal off a rebound caught Reid off-guard and spoiled the Elis’ rally.
While forward Justin Pearson ’22 and defenseman Connor Sullivan ’25 assisted on Allain’s second tally late in the match, the Tigers headed home with a 6–2 victory over Yale after an empty-net goal with 16 seconds left in the contest.
“The score wasn’t indicative of the game, and we did some really good things out there,” Yale men’s hockey head coach Keith Allain ’80 told Yale Athletics. “We didn’t do enough good things for 60 minutes, and we did too many things that shot ourselves in the foot.”
Although they closed out the match with a 30–25 shot advantage over Princeton, the Blue and White were unable to convert their opportunities on the scoreboard.
Yale skates away from the weekend empty-handed statistically, but Reid retained a different perspective of the results. For the Wisconsin native, the Bulldogs are continuing to tread in the right direction.
“I’m really excited about the chances going forward,” Reid said. “Our compete level was great… I’m really proud of this group despite the outcome.”
The Yale men’s hockey team will travel to New York this Friday to face off against U.S. Military Academy.