As if the temperature drop in New Haven was not enough, the men’s hockey team will travel north this weekend to face Cornell and Colgate in frigid upstate New York.
The Elis (8-7-2, 5-5 ECACHL) head to enemy territory after a 2-2-1 winter break campaign in which they began to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves at the end of last semester. After going winless for seven straight games, the Bulldogs managed to squeeze by Brown and Princeton in the first few days of the new year and improved their ECACHL record to 5-5 despite suffering a loss to the No. 16 Quinnipiac Bobcats last Saturday.
“Every game that we play gives us lessons,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I would expect us to be a wiser and more experienced team than we were going into break.”
Friday night the Elis will face No. 15 Cornell (9-6-2, 5-3-2), a team that dominated Yale, 5-2, when the two met at Ingalls Rink in the fall. Despite a solid 32 stops by netminder Alec Richards ’09, the Bulldogs could not get into a rhythm against the Big Red because of the high number of penalty minutes — 83 total to both teams — being dished out by the referees.
“We took too many penalties against a team that is that talented offensively,” forward Greg Beller ’10 said after the first meeting. “They converted on the chances that they had in power plays.”
But recently Cornell has struggled against tough opponents, failing to come up with a win in its past four games. In addition to losses to No. 4 Maine and Sacred Heart, the squad fell to No. 19 St. Lawrence and tied No. 10 Clarkson, dropping them to fourth place in the ECACHL. A Yale win would put the two teams even in the standings, an outcome that the Cornell squad will not be eager to allow.
To come away from the game with a victory — a feat that has not been accomplished by an Eli squad since February 2001 — the Bulldogs will have to play a disciplined game and contain the potent Cornell offense early on. The Big Red forward line, led in scoring by junior Topher Scott, averages over 30 shots per game, and the team has won eight of the nine games in which they have scored first. When they faced the Bulldogs in the fall, forward Mark McCutcheon and Scott tallied twice for Cornell in the opening period and the squad never looked back. Eli players characterized the opposing squad as larger and faster than many of the other teams they have played this season.
“They gave it to us pretty good in the game that they played us at home, so we are going to have to be really ready,” Allain said. “We are going to have to play a team game because their individuals are so strong.”
The Bulldogs should have an easier time Saturday night when they meet Colgate (9-12-3, 3-5-2), a team Yale bested, 2-1, in their conference opener this fall. Although the Raiders were predicted to finish first in the league, they have had subpar league play. They have only mustered three league wins so far and were dealt a painful 5-0 shutout by the second-place St. Lawrence Saints on Saturday night. They did, however, fare better than the Bulldogs against league leader Quinnipiac, posting a 2-2 tie and a 3-1 loss to the Wildcats this season.
“Colgate is a little bit different than Cornell,” Allain said. “We did get a win, [but] they are another team that has great team speed, and they are playing better hockey now than they were playing earlier in the season.”
Unlike Yale, Colgate is led by two veterans on offense. Junior forward Tyler Burton is at the head of the pack with 24 points this season. Although he has not gotten a point in the last three games, he is just two points shy of the 100 mark for his career and will be looking to reach that milestone this weekend. Senior forward Mark Fulton is also one of the top point producers in the conference and will keep the Eli blueliners on their toes.
“They are both very strong, aggressive teams,” said forward Mike Karwoski ’09, who had a pair of goals last weekend. “We are going to have to come out with our A-game and really take it to them early.”