If the men’s hockey team (0-2, 0-0 ECAC) were to have seen a psychiatrist this week — and, after being embarrassed at home last weekend by non-conference foes Alabama-Huntsville and St. Cloud State, it might not have been a bad idea — the doctor certainly would not have prescribed a road trip like this weekend’s. Hanover in winter has never been known as a cheery place.
“I hate New Hampshire,” defenseman Matt Cohen ’07 said after getting off the team bus Thursday night. “It’s freezing cold and it’s raining.”
Yet what seems like a cruel piece of scheduling is actually anything but. After a particularly long week of practice, the Bulldogs are itching to right their ship as they begin their ECAC schedule tonight at Dartmouth (1-1, 0-0) and continue tomorrow at Vermont (2-4-1, 0-0).
“I think everybody is really excited to go out and prove that last weekend wasn’t the team we are,” said Josh Gartner ’06, who will get the start tonight in goal. “We didn’t show what we were capable of. So I think everybody is looking forward to [Dartmouth].”
But just as the team may be eagerly awaiting Dartmouth, the Big Green is anticipating its match-up against Yale. Dartmouth’s offense rolled over Yale last year, winning 9-4 at Ingalls Rink in November and 6-3 in Hanover in February. Dartmouth junior Hugh Jessiman, one of the nation’s most feared snipers, will be thirsting to face the Elis after scoring a combined six goals in the team’s two games against the Bulldogs last season.
“Obviously we have to be aware when that line’s on the ice,” Gartner said, referring to Dartmouth’s top unit of Jessiman, senior Lee Stempniak and junior Mike Ouellette. “But we need to focus on our game plan and what we need to do to be successful. We can’t concern ourselves too much with any one line.”
In fact, Yale spent little time this week thinking about Dartmouth’s personnel — it was more concerned with fixing its own problems.
“We kept working on the same things — our forecheck and penalty kill,” said center Nick Shalek ’05, the Bulldog captain. “We keep trying to get tougher and play smarter and do the little things well. But what we really turned our attention to this week was defense. If we keep giving up 40 shots on our goaltenders we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Forward Joe Zappala ’06 believes the team has put last weekend’s losses behind it and is focused on the start of ECAC play.
“It’s definitely been an upbeat week of practice,” Zappala said. “We know last week’s games were non-league games and they don’t have much impact on our goal, which is to win the league.”
That league also includes Vermont, whose losing record is deceiving. The Catamounts traveled to Minnesota-Duluth last weekend and stunned national No. 1 UMD with a 3-2 win Friday and a 2-2 tie Saturday. For his 69 total saves on the weekend, UVM freshman goalie Joe Fallon was named last week’s U.S. College Hockey Online defensive player of the week.
Forward Christian Jensen ’06, who tied Zappala for the team lead in points last year with 30, believes the challenge of facing a hot goaltender might jumpstart the Yale offense, which has been held scoreless in its last five periods.
“Vermont’s been an up-and-down team, but they took three out of four points from Minnesota-Duluth last weekend,” Jensen said. “So they’re obviously very good. But we’re excited about playing them.”