After squaring off against three ECAC competitors to kickoff the 2021-22 campaign, the Yale men’s hockey team lost their first non-conference game to the United States Military Academy.

Coming off of three consecutive defeats, the Bulldogs (0–4–0, 0–3–0 ECAC) fell once again to the Cadets (3–5–1, 1–2–1 AHA) in a 6–3 match. While three different Elis notched their first goal of the season in Friday’s game, Army was able to retain an edge over Yale and recorded its third straight win. 

Despite the shaky start to the season, the young Bulldogs remain optimistic about growing their game and chemistry by applying lessons they learned from their junior league experiences.

“Personally for me I know my first couple of years of juniors were kind of all over the map, trying to find myself as a player and a person,” sophomore goaltender Nate Reid ’24  told the New Haven Register following Yale’s loss to Quinnipiac. “Last year, I kind of grew into a veteran role and I try to take everything I learned from there and bring it to this group.”

In front of the packed crowd at Tate Rink in upstate New York, it was the Cadets that hit the ice flying in the first period. Within 12 minutes of the opening puck drop, Army was able to find the back of the net on two separate occasions. After defenseman Anthony Firriolo was sent to the penalty box for a boarding minor, the Bulldogs’ man advantage was quickly spoiled when Army’s captain Colin Bilek caught them mid-line change to slot in a short-handed breakaway goal.

While Army drove in an even strength tally past junior netminder Connor Hopkins ’23 at 11:27, a goal from left winger Cole Donhauser ’23 pulled the Blue and White within one late in the first frame. 

After a Bulldog powerplay expired midway in the second period, Yale captain and blueliner Graham Lillibridge ’22 promptly tied the game, recording his first goal of the 2021-22 campaign. Five minutes later, however, the Cadets jumped on a rebound to exit the frame with the upper hand. 

With 18 minutes remaining in regulation, Army was able to convert a second powerplay opportunity. Following a review of the play, Bilek was awarded his second tally of the night and ultimately, the game winning goal. The Elis, however, refused to let up, as an assist from forward Niklas Allain ’24 was put home by senior winger Teddy Wooding ’22 with seven minutes left. Despite the Bulldogs’ efforts, back-to-back empty net goals closed out the evening with a home victory for the Cadets. Hopkins — in his first start with the Blue and White — stopped a total of 41 shots and posted a .911 save percentage. 

“You gotta give Yale credit,” Army head coach Brian Riley told Army West Point media in a post-game interview. “They scored one late in the first, came out and tied it up, but our special teams were the difference.” 

Despite being four contests deep into the season, the Bulldogs returned to New Haven the very next day to face another AHA team in Sacred Heart University (3–4–3, 1–1–2) in an exhibition match at the Whale. 

With only three forward lines dressed and first-year goalie Luke Pearson ’25 between the pipes, the Elis were able to hold the Pioneers scoreless for two periods. A tally from center William Dineen ’25, however, was not enough to hold off Sacred Heart. Ultimately, the Pioneers nabbed the 3–1 victory with two goals from Yale graduate transfer Dante Palecco ’21. 

With 25 contests remaining in the regular season, the Elis still have plenty of opportunities to make their mark in the win column and improve both their overall and conference record. As the Bulldogs hit the road once again this weekend, they get set to battle it out with ECAC foes Colgate and Cornell in New York.  

“Expect to see a hungry, focused group, one that will compete with energy and enthusiasm and grow throughout the season,” said head coach Keith Allain ’80 in October.

The Yale men’s hockey team will face off against Colgate University for the first time since Feb. 22, 2020 on Friday evening. 

Trisha Nguyen covers men's ice hockey and field hockey as a staff reporter. Originally from St. Louis, she is a sophomore in Saybrook College majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology.