If the past is any indication, the men’s hockey team should take home a win this weekend.
On Saturday night, the Bulldogs will face off against UConn — a non-league team that Yale has never lost to since the two first competed in the 1970s. However, even with a 5-0 all-time record in the series, the Elis will not underestimate the Huskies, who nearly bested the Bulldogs last February in a 4-3 nail-biter.
“In the past few years, it’s always been a pretty close game,” defenseman Bill LeClerc ’07 said. “It’s definitely a game that we will have to be just as prepared for as any other team in our league to get the win.”
Although the Huskies, currently 2-6, have had a rocky start to their season, they head to the Whale this weekend fresh off a win over league rival Bentley. Senior forward Matt Scherer and sophomore forward Chris Myhro have done the bulk of UConn’s scoring so far, contributing eight and six goals, respectively.
The Bulldogs split their ECACHL contests last weekend, defeating Colgate before dropping their first game of the season to then No. 13 Cornell. The squad is led in scoring by LeClerc, Matt Nelson ’09 and Sean Backman ’10, who have two goals apiece, although a total of seven Elis have lit the lamp this season. Nelson and LeClerc were major factors in last season’s win over UConn, tallying three of the team’s four goals.
“We still feel good with a 3-1 start,” forward David Germain ’08 said. “It’s pretty unrealistic to go undefeated. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes against Cornell and use them to our advantage.”
One aspect of their game that the Bulldogs will have to pay careful attention to is penalties. In the past four contests, Yale players have taken 41 penalties and have spent an average of 38 minutes per game in the box. Although the Bulldog defense has been fairly successful at protecting the goal when playing a man down, penalties were the deciding factor in last weekend’s 5-2 loss to Cornell. The Big Red tallied three of their goals on power plays and took nearly twice as many shots as the Elis did.
“We just spent too much time in the penalty box to get into the flow of the game,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “The shot differential in the Cornell game [was] a direct result of [that].”
Not deterred, the Elis have continued to adjust to the new league standards of discipline, Allain said. The squad has also continued to improve its already strong special teams play.
“I think the loss to Cornell has actually helped in a way because it’s taken us off the high that we were on from our three-game streak,” forward Greg Beller ’10 said. “It’s brought us back to [the mentality that] we need to work hard if we want to win. We need to pay attention to small things like getting out of our zone before we go on offense. If we work hard, I think this could be our best game yet.”
In fact, the Elis have already begun to turn heads in the past few weeks. Yale was not ranked in the Nov. 6 polls, but the Bulldogs received 22 votes — an impressive feat considering they were not even mentioned in the pre-season polls. The team recognizes that a win on Saturday will be crucial to continue to improve its standings.
“Every opponent on our schedule is beatable, and everyone has the ability to beat us,” Allain said. “To be successful we must continue to grow as a team, execute our system play and win the one-on-one battles that occur.”