Defending champion Yale Bulldogs (15-3) have a shot at defending their title after upsetting the Penn State Nittany Lions (16-2) 21-17 in the second game of the NCAA semi-finals on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Penn State’s only two losses this season were at Yale’s hands. Back on February 23rd Yale defeated Penn State 14-13 in New Haven.
Yale’s 10 first-quarter goals tied a 1976 record set by Maryland the first quarter of their semi-final game versus Navy.
Last year’s National Champions started out quickly in the game scoring on their first three shots of the game for an early 3-0 lead. Jackson Morrill scored his first of the game at 52 seconds followed by Christian Cropp and Matt Brandau. After calling time out Penn State applied offensive pressure but Yale goalie Jack Starr stood tall.
Penn State finally cracked the scoreboard as Nick Spillane scored on an extra-man opportunity. But Yale didn’t let that bother them as they would score three more times to open a 7-1 lead on the Nittany Lions. They led 10-2 after the first.
“Penn State should be very proud of the season that they had,” said Bulldogs’ coach Andy Shay. “Not only that, to be down 10-2 and to fight back like they did, it’s just unbelievably impressive, and I kinda felt like it was going to happen the entire way. They’re incredibly talented, incredibly well coached, and they played really hard. It ended up being just a great game.”
Penn State came out on fire in the second quarter. Matt O’Keefe scored twice with two rockets, and Gerard Arceri would score off the faceoff to cut the Bulldogs’ lead in half at 10-5. Yale would rebound as Brandau would fight off the check of Mike Aronow to end a four-goal run by Penn State for his third of the game. Penn State and Arceri would respond again off the faceoff and cut the lead back to five.
With the score 12-7, Matt O’Keefe took a feed from Spillane and turned to fire a shot high to bring the Nittany Lions within four at 12-8. After killing a man-down situation, Penn State worked their way inside as Dylan Foulds scored his first of the day and the Nittany Lions would trail 12-9 at halftime.
As the second half would get underway so would Yale’s offense. Yale would score two of the three goals in 1:23 to open a four goal lead. Yale increased the lead to 15-11 with some back-and-forth play. Jackson Morrill (3rd/46 season) would take a feed from Joseph Sessa and put one into the cage to increase the lead back to five.
O’Keefe would be stopped, but Grant Ament picked up the rebound to hit a sprinting Jack Kelly (2nd/42) and he didn’t miss from in close to draw the Nittany Lions within four at 16-12. Dylan Foulds (2nd/48) would score on the man up off a feed from Ament, the was Ament’s 17th in the tournament which is a new NCAA assist record.
Ament finished the tournament with 18 assists and 25 total points (in three games) which tied a record set by three others. Cornell’s Eamon McEneaney (1977) and Tim Goldstein (1987) and most recently Yale’s Ben Reeves (2018) did it in four games.
Yale put some pressure on at the end of the quarter, and their defense and goaltending hung tough. Penn State trailed 16-13 to start the fourth quarter.
Yale’s Luke Eshbach (1st/4th) scored to open the fourth but from there on out in was the Brandau show. His fourth of the game with 9:34 left forced Penn State to call a time out to regroup, but it didn’t work as he went on to score two more. Off the faceoff, Brandau took the loose ball and sprinted down field to score his fifth of the day just eight seconds after his last one. After his natural hat trick goal, Yale controlled 20-13.
Ament ended Yale’s run run by scoring his third of the day unassisted to give the Nittany Lions some life. Penn State would win the race to the line to get possession, but an unforced turnover gave the ball back to Yale and it would be Brandau again to all but put the nail into the coffin of Penn State’s chances.
Foulds finished the game with a natural hat trick with his third of the game coming off a feed from behind the net from Ament. Founds had five on the day but it wouldn’t be enough as the clock struck midnight on Penn State’s near-perfect season and their dream of a National Title.
TD Ierlan was a monster on at the X winning 28 of 39 on the day and picking up 20 groundballs.
When asked about taking so many faceoffs in a high-scoring game Ierlan said, “I think when you go into game like this, their offense is so high powered, and we know our offense can score with anyone. You know there are going to be a lot of faceoffs, and I got off to a hot start and Arceri came back and won a bunch of them. You know there are going to be a lot of faceoffs, you’re obviously going to lose some, so you’ve got to reset and stay focused.”
Matt Brandau (7G/1A) and Jackson Morrill (3G/2A) led the Yale attack. Matt Gaudet and Jack Tigh had two goals each. A total of 16 goals weere from the starting lineup. Goalie Jack Starr made five saves on 22 shots on goal.
For the Nittany Lions, Grant Ament (3G/5A) and Dylan Foulds (5G) led the attack. Matt O’Keefe (3G), Jack Kelly (2G) and Nick Spillane (1G/4A) also factored in. Faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri was 13-37 on the draws and also scored three times as well. Colby Kneese recorded nine saves on 30 shots faced.
Yale will try to win back-to-back National Championships when they face Virginia Monday at 1 p.m.