M. HOCKEY | The Crimson are coming

The men’s hockey team has climbed its way into a tie for first place in the ECAC.

Now it just needs to stay there.

The No. 14 Bulldogs (15-5-1, 10-3-1 ECAC) welcome Harvard and No. 19 Dartmouth to Ingalls Rink for a pair of 7 p.m. conference match-ups this weekend as they look to keep their four-game ECAC winning streak alive.

Yale defeated both teams on a road trip in January, early in what has now become an 8-1-1 streak in the last 10 games.

Despite a pre-season ranking of No. 18 in the nation, the Cantabs (5-12-4, 5-6-4) have been a major disappointment so far this year. They sit right in the middle of ECAC standings and have only won one of their last 15 contests, including losing nine consecutive games at one point.

Yet Yale head coach Keith Allain was quick to acknowledge Harvard’s improved play as of late. Besides defeating Union, 3-1, last week, they tied Dartmouth, 5-5, on the road about a week before and most recently lost by a goal to No. 1 BU.

“Harvard has played much better hockey since we saw them,” he said. “What we’ve seen lately is more indicative than what we saw earlier in the season.”

The Big Green (11-7-3, 8-4-2), who are tied with Princeton for second in the ECAC, are on a five-game conference unbeaten streak, and have been strong all season. Their last loss, though, came against the Bulldogs on Jan. 9. in a 2-1 home defeat.

Both teams have been favoring freshman netminders so far this season. Harvard’s Matt Hoyle, who has started almost every game so far this season, was named ECAC Rookie of the Week after his 30-save performance against Union on Friday. Dartmouth’s Jody O’Neill is ninth best in the country with a .931 save percentage, and Allain called him perhaps one of the best goalies in the nation.

The last time the Elis lost, coincidentally, they were facing Clarkson freshman netminder Richie LaVeau in a 4-3 home loss on Jan. 16.

But it is the Bulldogs’ goaltender Alec Richards ’09 who has been the hottest in goal as of late. Richards was named National Player of the Week by insidehockey.com, as well as ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week after stopping 63 of 64 total shots in Yale’s wins against Princeton and Quinnipiac last weekend. Richards was in net when the Bulldogs defeated Dartmouth in January, but missed the Harvard contest the following night due to illness.

A good performance this weekend could enable the Bulldogs to move past Cornell, which faces two strong teams — Princeton and Quinnipiac — this weekend.

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