Hempstead, NY — Facing the pouring rain and a hot goalie, Yale had a lot working against it.
Powered by a strong opening quarter, the Bulldogs contested Loyola goalie Jacob Stover and the elements as they advanced to their first Final Four since 1990.
It’s the first time a New England based team will play at Gillette Stadium since the first time the facility hosted the event in 2008.
“It’s a little surreal at this point,” said Yale coach Andy Shay. “We’re just happy to play another week. I’m proud of these guys for bringing this program to another level.”
With 12-of-17 faceoff wins, Conor Mackie kept the Bulldogs in possession and they piled the shots on. The Bulldogs posted 42 shots, 19 of which Stover saved, including seven in the fourth quarter alone.
Stover kept the Greyhounds in the game despite their lack of possessions. Yale’s ride made it difficult for the Greyhounds to move the ball up field, testing Stover every chance they could. The Yale shots started to sail up, playing in tough weather conditions.
While Stover made the stops, the damage was already done.
“I thought it was huge,” Shay said of the ride. “In the second half, we were able to turn them over. We decided to stick with, we were going to drop-ride which is a little more passive, then Conor [Mackie] said stick with what we do, and we felt like they were getting out pretty easily. We trust the guys and their decisions on the field, they felt they could get something back, and they saw something.”
Loyola cleared just 16-of-23, struggling to get it past midfield whenever Yale went into its aggressive ride. It was something the Greyhounds were prepared for, but couldn’t find a solution. Yale ended up holding the Greyhounds scoreless for a stretch of 33:43 spanning the end of the first half into the second.
Ben Reeves posted three goals and three assists as he ran the offense while John Daniggelis talied twice. The rest of the offense was evenly distributed, the Bulldogs depth showing even when the Loyola defense at its best. Led primarily from its seniors, the freshmen on the back end, with Jack Starr in net and Chris Fake on defense, had a lot to do with it.
“I think our senior leaders have helped those guys along,” said Shay. “Not just the freshmen, but all the classes. The expectations are the same for every guy, no matter what year. It’s a credit to these guys for making it happen.”
After dropping the Ivy League championship to Cornell, the Bulldogs have gone on to win in the first round against UMass, and now a win over Loyola has them in prime position to continue that rebound.
The Bulldogs will face the winner of Denver – Albany for a chance to get to the national championship in front of what could play out to be similar to a home crowd in Massachusetts.
“I feel like we’ve built, everything and every year and moment has built to this point,” said Shay. “Guys that suffered through some seasons that weren’t like this have a lot to do with this. I can show my stats and practice plans from 15 years ago, they look a lot like these.”