The Game 2015: Heartbreakers against Harvard pervade 2014–15

The Game 2015:
Heartbreakers against Harvard pervade 2014–15

Published on November 19, 2015

Animosity between Harvard and Yale only increased last year as the Bulldogs suffered heartbreaking losses to the Crimson in multiple sports.

Last year, a cold and gloomy Saturday at Harvard Stadium foreshadowed the fate of the Yale football team. Despite having a near-perfect record of 5–1 in conference play and boasting the highest-scoring offense in the nation, the Bulldogs fell short, with a last-minute touchdown capping the eighth-straight victory for Harvard over Yale and preventing the Bulldogs from snagging a part of the Ivy League title.

Last-minute defeat

Following a go-ahead touchdown with 55 remaining in the game, a Harvard interception sealed the Crimson victory in the 131st rendition of The Game. (Ken Yanagisawa, Senior Photographer)

Just a few months later, the Yale men’s hockey and men’s basketball teams found themselves in similar situations and fared no better. Within a span of two days, Yale men’s hockey dropped the quarterfinal series of the ECAC Hockey tournament to the Cantabs, and Yale men’s basketball missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid because of a late 53–51 loss to the same rival.

“[The loss to Harvard] broke our heart,” football player Jamal Locke ’18, who played on special teams during the Harvard-Yale game last year, said. “It really hurt and it was one of those feelings I never, ever want to have again.”

In men’s hockey, the Bulldogs had shown dominance over the Crimson on the ice all season, having successfully shut down Harvard all three times the two rivals met during regular season. However, in a best-of-three quarterfinal series for the ECAC championship, Yale was unable to keep Harvard at bay.

The Crimson won the first of the three contests 3–2, and Yale’s defense responded strongly for the second game to secure a 2–0 victory for the Bulldogs. The 1–1 tie meant the two rivals would have to face each other in a final, decisive match.

Defenseman Robert O’Gara ’16 said the team was excited and confident before going into the final game after winning the second contest, especially because the game would be held at home in Ingalls Rink.

Just as the first two games of the series could not separate the two rivals, the 60 minutes of regulation in the rubber match were not enough to determine a winner.

Goals from forwards Cody Learned ’16 and Frankie DiChiara ’17 created a 2–2 tie at the end of the third period. Unlike in the regular season, when a single five-minute sudden-death overtime is played before ending in a tie, this playoff contest could not end until a goal was scored and a single team could advance.

After more than 36 extra minutes of hockey, All-American Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey netted the game-winner in the second overtime, sealing a win for a Harvard team that he led all season as a freshman.

O’Gara, who was on the ice for the goal, said that losing after a long series against a strong rival was “as bad as it gets.”

“The loss was definitely a tough one to swallow,” O’Gara said. “We thought our season had ended at that point, so thinking about that being the last time we would have played with the seniors was very depressing and only added on to the sadness of what had happened.”

Veni, Vidi, Vesey

All-American forward Jimmy Vesey sent Yale packing with a double-overtime series-clincher. (Ken Yanagisawa, Senior Photographer)

Though the men’s hockey team would end up making the NCAA Tournament off an at-large bid — ultimately falling to Boston University by another overtime decision in the first round — a similar result for Yale men’s basketball ended the Elis’ season in sudden fashion.

Although the Bulldogs defeated Harvard a week earlier to take a share of the Ivy title, they went on to drop straight games to Dartmouth and Harvard, losing out on their chance for a tournament bid.

Played in the historic Palestra in Philadelphia, the match was a very even one, with the Bulldogs and the Crimson switching the lead over multiple times — Harvard led the game for 22 minutes and Yale for 13.

With the score tied at 51 and just over 30 seconds left on the clock, Harvard found itself with the ball after referees reviewed an out-of-bounds call and ruled in the Crimson’s favor. With the shot clock off, point guard Siyani Chambers handed the ball off to guard/forward Wesley Saunders, the 2013–14 Ivy League Player of the Year.

Saunders drove as the game clock ticked below 10 seconds before feeding fellow senior Steve Moundou-Missi. Moundou-Missi collected the pass and calmly knocked down the jump shot from the top of the key to put Harvard ahead with 7.2 seconds remaining.

Missed opportunity

A 53–51 loss to Harvard kept the Bulldogs from an NCAA Tournament bid. (Lakshman Somasundaram, Contributing Photographer)

Yale elected to not call a timeout, instead inbounding the ball to point guard Javier Duren ’15, an All-Ivy first-team selection and senior leader. Duren dribbled the length of the court, guarded by Saunders, and drove into the paint where he managed to muster a left-handed floater, with Moundou-Missi contesting the potential equalizer. The shot banked off the glass and harmlessly rimmed out, sending Harvard to the NCAA Tournament and Yale home in despair.

“I was there at the game and it was brutal,” Whaling Crew Communications Director Adam Lowet ’18 said. “I’m a huge basketball fan and personally it was a bit of a disappointment after losing to Dartmouth and seeing the same thing happen against Harvard.”

Despite the recurring losses to rival Harvard, Yale fans have not given up hope and are still optimistic about the Bulldogs’ chances this season.

Whaling Crew President Matthew Sant-Miller ’17 said that he is very optimistic about the football team’s performance this season, and is looking forward to both The Game and the winter season later on.

“Our thought this year is that we don’t have the same feeling as we had last year,” Locke said. “We’re going to fight hard to come out on top this year.”

This year, Yale and Harvard men’s hockey skated to a tie in their first regular-season matchup on Nov. 6.


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