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O'Neil, Kaczperski Lead Blue to Win Over Harvard

O'Neil scores the winner with 3:16 left in the 3rd (Jack Warhola image)
O'Neil scores the winner with 3:16 left in the 3rd (Jack Warhola image)

Yale's 2-1 Win Gets Home Ice For Playoffs

 

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Kevin O'Neil saved his best night as a Bulldog for the biggest night of the season. Yale's first-year forward scored twice, including the game-winner with 3:16 left, in a 2-1 regular season-ending victory over Harvard before a raucous sellout crowd at Ingalls Rink.

O'Neil scored late in the first and then broke a 1-1 deadlock with a spectacular play that gave the Bulldogs their fifth win in the last seven games. More importantly, it earned home ice for next weekend's first round ECAC Hockey playoff series as the No. 8 seed. Quinnipiac, the 9th seed, will come to the Whale for a best-of-3 event.

On senior night, Adam Larkin '18 began the game-winning sequence. He flicked a pass up the boards in the neutral zone to Mitchell Smith, who quickly directed it to a streaking O'Neil, who took the pass in stride one-on-one with the defenseman. O'Neil toe-dragged through his stick, shoulder faked the goalie and slid it between his legs.

"It was a lucky break," said O'Neil, who was not interested in taking much credit. "I made a move and was lucky to get around him (defenseman)."

His head coach wasn't surprised by the highlight move. "We think he has the potential to be an outstanding offensive player," said Allain. "The moves he made on the second goal were great, we knew he had that in him."

Yale, which earned a season sweep of the Crimson, finish the season 15-13-1 overall after getting a 33-save performance from goalie Corbin Kaczperski.

The first period looked like it would be scoreless until O'Neil got his 5th of the year with 2:21 left. Joe Snively, coming off a 4-point Friday night, sent a long pass up the right side for his linemate. O'Neil picked up the puck along the boards and skated for the crease. He flicked a shot off Merrick Madsen's pads and the puck came back to him for another try. This time he elevated it over the goalie's shoulders for a 1-0 lead.

"I shot it from a bad angle, and I was lucky the goalie couldn't corral it, said O'Neil. "I just banged it in."

The shots were even in the first but Kaczperski really got tested in the second with 11 chances, including a few grade-As. The sophomore goalie fought off screens and opposing sticks to stop two power plays and every shot.

"We were blocking shots and picking up sticks tonight," said Kaczperski. "We showed a lot of resilience and battled through to get the win."

Harvard, after having a fifth straight power play killed off by the home team, got on the board 4:30 into the third. However, it did not take any wind out of the Yale sails, but it needed help from the goalie. The save of the game was made by Kaczperski on a one-timer by Henry Bowlby, who had an open side of the net on a crossing feed with 11:21 left in the game. The Bulldog goalie shifted laterally and pounced on the attempt like a lion on a sprinting rodent.  

The Crimson, who had Ryan Donato (6 shots) back from his Olympic stint, had two advantages in each period and did not cash any in. Kaczperski made four saves on each of those power plays, including the final one with three minutes left and Madsen pulled for an extra skater. The Yale goalie also benefited from a great defensive stop by Mitchell Smith, who dove and knocked the puck away from a Harvard skater with an open net in the third period.

 

BULLDOG BITES

Today's Yale Hockey Alumni Game included 3 former NHL players, Ray Giroux, Joe Callahan and Jeff Hamilton, and there were at least 40 players overall skating… Tonight was the final regular season home game for 5 Yale seniors: Nate Repensky, Henry Hart, John Baiocco, Adam Larkin and Ryan Hitchcock… Former Yale President Richard Levin and current president Peter Salovey sat together at tonight's game.

 

ECAC HOCKEY PLAYOFFS – First Round

No. 12 St. Lawrence at No. 5 Dartmouth
Friday, March 2 - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 - 7:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 - 5:05 p.m.

No. 11 Rensselaer at No. 6 Colgate
Friday, March 2 - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 - 7:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 - 7:05 p.m.

No. 10 Brown at No. 7 Princeton
Friday, March 2 - 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 - 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 - 7 p.m.

No. 9 Quinnipiac at No. 8 Yale
Friday, March 2 - 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 - 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 - 5 p.m.

 

By Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director - steven.conn@yale.edu