Sporting Life

A night in the limelight

Yale wins the second Rivalry on Ice at Madison Square Garden.

Evan Frondorf ’14 is a research fellow at the University of California.

Steve Musco

Steve Musco

The annual battle at Madison Square Garden gives Yale and Harvard a taste of big-time college hockey crowds, but the teams are nationally competitive even in their modest home arenas. View full image

Technically, the Rivalry on Ice, a privately promoted Yale-Harvard men’s hockey game at Madison Square Garden, doesn’t even count in the standings for the Ivy League or ECAC Hockey conferences. But the second edition of the Rivalry, on January 10, held much of the glamour and excitement of the first: a chance for young Ivy athletes to have a professional-style experience generally unavailable to Yale outside of a championship Frozen Four contest.

“Having the opportunity to play in a venue like this—that’s a special moment,” said Yale head coach Keith Allain ’80 after the game. “So I wanted them to enjoy it.” The Bulldogs not only enjoyed it, but also won their second decisive victory over the Crimson at the Garden, by a score of 4–1.

Going into the evening, Harvard had the nation’s top scoring offense and had lost only one game—to Yale. But it was the Bulldogs who came out on the attack. They outshot the Crimson 16–5 in the first period, and two of those pucks—one each by Chris Izmirlian ’17 and Charles Orzetti ’16—found their way past Harvard goalie Steve Michalek. Early in the second frame, Matt Killian ’15 cleaned up his own rebound and drove home Yale’s third goal in under 10 minutes. Mitch Witek ’16 added one more in the third, and goalie Alex Lyon ’17 turned in an excellent performance, giving up just one goal on 21 Harvard attempts.

Though a rare treat for Harvard and Yale, the crowd and atmosphere of Madison Square Garden would feel like a standard weekend for perennial contenders such as North Dakota and Minnesota, which regularly draw crowds of around 10,000 at their home arenas. But smaller schools, in smaller rinks, are closing the talent gap. Yale played the Rivalry just two years after winning the national championship, while Harvard reached a ranking of third in both national polls this year, their highest since polling began in the mid-1990s. The Ivy League and the ECAC are no longer mere outposts of college hockey; they are fast becoming realistic destinations for top recruits.

 “College hockey has changed,” says Izmirlian. “Not all high-end talent want to go to the North Dakotas and the BCs and the BUs. It’s not just the same so-called powerhouses winning national championships.” Teams like Yale are happy to play out their college careers in places like Ingalls Rink (capacity: 3,500) and the cozy barns of their ECAC opponents. “Personally, I like playing in the smaller arenas,” says Izmirlian. “It’s more of a homey vibe.”

But having secured the Rivalry on Ice trophy for the Yale Club of New York City for another year, the Bulldogs have received an enticing taste of the big time—perhaps a glimpse of the future for professionally bound players. And they left Manhattan with an important win and a confidence boost heading into the second half of the season.

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