Bulldogs Still Earn Outright Championship
BOSTON, Mass. – Ryan Graff scored with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter to give Harvard its first lead of the day and the game-winner in the Crimson's 9-8 upset of No. 11 Yale on the final day of the regular season.
The Bulldogs, who finish with an 8-5 record and an outright Ivy League Championship (5-1 Ivy), came within a goal of their first perfect Ivy League campaign since 1956 after having the lead for almost the entirety of the 100th meeting of archrivals.
A pair of four-goal leads and a six-point day by Ben Reeves was spoiled by a late Harvard comeback. The junior All-American had three goals and had his hand on all but two of the Yale goals.
With a combined 10 turnovers in the first 15 minutes, only two shots found the net and both were from Yale rookies. Lucas Cotler converted a Reeves feed in front of the crease at 5:28 before Jackson Morrill ran out from behind the net, dropped his hands and fired low past Crimson goalie Robert Shaw (20 saves).
Reeves, who became the fifth Bulldog to reach the 100-goal mark with his first tally of the day, gave his team a three-goal advantage at 9:55 of the second. He beat his defender from the side to the top of the crease and then bounced a shot into the back of the net. Reeves had a hand on three of the four goals in the first half, assisting on Robert Mooney's long-pole rocket at 4:36 of the second.
The Eli defense kept the home team off the board on senior day through the game's first 26 minutes. The Crimson got two near the end of the half to cut a four-goal deficit in half heading back to the locker room.
The visitors increased the lead to 6-2 and then 7-3 with two more Reese tallies and another from Morrill, who exchanged consecutive scoring feeds with the team's top scorer. Things were going smoothly for the Elis until a Harvard offensive run made it 7-7 late in the third. Only two great saves by Phil Huffard (12 saves) with under a minute to play prevented the home squad from taking a lead into the fourth.
Huffard made another pair of huge stops early in the fourth to give his team a chance to take the road win, but the Yale offense could not solve Shaw. There were numerous opportunities for Yale to take the lead and later try to even things after the Graff tally, but the Bulldog shots kept hitting the Harvard goalie.
Shaw's performance also spoiled an excellent day for Yale FOGO Conor Mackie, who won 14 of 20 on the X.
Yale earned the top seed and the home field in the May 5-7 Ivy League Tournament. The semifinals begin Friday at 3:30 p.m. with a noon Sunday championship contest at Reese Stadium. All the games air on ESPNU. The Bulldogs play No. 4 Penn at 6 p.m. The 3:30 p.m. semifinal pits No. 2 Princeton vs. No. 3 Brown. Yale, the winner of the 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 tournaments, has appeared in every league post-season event since it began in 2010. The Bulldogs are 8-3 overall and have outscored opponents 114-90.
This is the sixth Ivy championship for the Blue. Yale's first official league title was in 1969. The Elis won three in a row from 1988 to 1990, including the only two outright championships in 1989 and 1990. The last was a three-way in 2010.
By Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD & Sports Publicity Director