The last time the men’s hockey team faced off against Dartmouth was in the second round of the 2006 ECACHL playoffs. The Big Green swept the Bulldogs, 5-1 and 3-1 in the best-of-three series, bringing Yale’s rollercoaster season to an abrupt end.
This weekend, the Elis are hungry for revenge.
The Yale squad kicks off a tough week of road games in Hanover, N.H. tonight against the defending ECACHL champions. The No. 13 Big Green are 3-2 in league play (4-2 overall), and may be the strongest team that Yale has faced yet this season.
“Dartmouth is a really well-rounded team,” captain Matt Cohen ’07 said. “They have some size, good speed and skill. They are balanced and they do a good job of pretty much everything.”
Forwards David Jones, Tanner Glass and T.J. Galiardi have anchored the Dartmouth attack this season, combining for more than half of the team’s goals and assists. The Big Green also boast Grant Lewis, one of the best blueliners in the league, who tallied a goal in Dartmouth’s 9-4 trouncing of Yale last November.
Between the pipes, Dartmouth has relied on junior Mike Devine, who has stopped the puck 182 times this season. Last weekend, he came up with 35 saves in Dartmouth’s 3-2 victory over No. 12 Cornell — a squad that beat the Elis by a three-goal margin earlier this season. The strong Bulldog front line will have to work to find ways to get the puck past Devine.
“This weekend is big,” said forward Sean Backman ’10, who currently leads the Elis in scoring with four goals. “Dartmouth is a good team in the Top 20 in the nation.”
Win or lose, the Elis will not have long to linger on the Dartmouth game before the puck drops at Harvard on Saturday night. Last year, the Bulldogs dropped their first game to the Crimson in overtime, 4-3, but rallied back for a 4-3 victory at the Whale later in the season.
Preseason polls predicted a second-place Crimson finish in the ECACHL, but they are currently 1-4 in league play (2-4 overall). They feature a well-rounded squad with a strong offense that puts pressure on the opposing goalie, taking an average of 32 shots per game. Senior Justin Tobe and freshman Kyle Richter have split time in the goal this season, each with a record of 1-2.
“Harvard has always been good,” Cohen said. “Any time Yale plays Harvard at anything, it’s going to be a battle out there. Every point means a lot.”
After a tiring weekend, the Elis will hit the road again on Tuesday to face Atlantic Hockey League foe Mercyhurst. Yale took away a 4-3 win when the two met last season at Ingalls Rink. The Lakers are currently 2-6 and split contests against UConn two weeks ago, a team that the Bulldogs overcame, 3-2, last weekend.
The Elis will finish off their Thanksgiving break campaign against No. 9 Boston University, a squad that has been facing off against ranked opponents for the majority of their early games this season. The Terriers are currently 2-2-4, having come up with two big overtime ties against No. 1 Maine and University of New Hampshire. Senior goalie John Curry, with 200 saves already, has been a force in the net every game this season.
The Bulldogs are hoping that their 4-1 start will provide them with the momentum that they need to help carry them through a challenging week. If they want to remain competitive against scoring powerhouses Dartmouth and BU, they will need strong, consistent performances from netminder Alec Richards ’09 and the defense, like they have been getting so far this season.
“We are much better defensively this year,” forward David Germain ’08 said. “Our goalie and our defense have been a lot stronger than in the past.”
The upcoming week will also be a good litmus test of whether or not the Bulldogs — who finished with a 5-12-2 away game record last season — will be able to remain competitive outside of New Haven.
“It is always tougher on the road,” Cohen said. “You don’t have the comforts of home and the home crowd. We are just going to have to go out there and put our best foot forward.”