Elis eager to end skid vs. Cantabs

In men’s hockey, Harvard leads Yale 129-69-17 in a historic rivalry that dates back to 1900. But the Bulldogs of 2005 are not concerned with those numbers. All they care about are seven and five.

As in 7-5 Harvard, Feb. 6, 2004, at Ingalls Rink. After Harvard mounted the improbable comeback from down 4-0 and 5-1, the heartbreaking loss sent Yale skidding; they would lose nine of their final 10 games. It also prompted an audacious rant in an article in The Yale Herald, where the team was referred to as “a bunch of pansies” for what the reporter perceived to be cowardly play. This slighting, despite a largely unsubstantiated foundation, left an indelible mark on Yale players, who vowed both vengeance and better play.

Whether the Herald reporter has been roughed up is uncertain, but Harvard definitely made it through the first half of this season unscathed. In a Nov. 12 clash at the Bright Hockey Center, the Bulldogs squandered a late 1-0 lead and wasted 41 Josh Gartner ’06 saves in an eventual 3-1 loss.

Winger Will Engasser ’08 was not around last year to endure the collapse, so he had to rely only on the November game to fuel him this weekend.

“I think we’re a lot different a team than we were when we played them the first time,” Engasser said. “We’ve improved a lot and found a way to win. We’re a lot more confident going into this game, but we got a new spark and a new half of the season. We’re looking to come out with a ‘W.'”

For forward Robert Burns ’07, a Massachusetts native who caught the attention of fans last weekend with his rugged style, the February Harvard game was the most exciting of his career.

“Last year when we played Harvard, that was the most fun game to play by far because that whole section was packed with students,” Burns said. “Hopefully they’ll come out this time too.”

Barring an encore from Mother Nature, it is likely that the fans will, indeed, come out this time. Yale sold out Ingalls two games ago against Boston College and had a strong turnout for the UConn game in the face of last weekend’s blizzard, and this weekend’s game against Harvard has been sold out all week.

Center Zach Mayer ’06 has a different take on the weekend than some of his teammates. Out since Jan. 7 with a torn right labrum, Mayer found out Tuesday morning that he had been cleared to skate in this weekend’s Ivy action. Just being on the ice is enough to make Mayer happy — but another shot at Brown and Harvard? Gravy.

“It feels good to be back,” Mayer said. “It counts a little more because it’s Harvard and it’s at home. Just because it’s Harvard doesn’t mean we’re putting all our eggs in one basket. There’s a little bit more on the line.”

Like Burns, Shawn Mole ’07 is a member of the sophomore class which has seen only disasters against Harvard. But the defenseman, who tallied his first career goal last weekend and looked razor-sharp with new defensive partner Bill LeClerc ’07, is determined to do what Yale has not done since March 2, 2002: beat Harvard.

“After the first game against them this year, everybody on the team was bitter about not beating them the first time around,” Mole said. “So we’ll be pumped up to beat them this time. I feel like the morale of the team is definitely up.”

Saturday Mole and his teammates plan to show their morale and intensity and feed off what is sure to be a raucous crowd. And if things go as planned, no one — not Harvard, not The Herald — will be questioning their toughness by night’s end.

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