M. HOCKEY | Time for Elis to clinch

The ECAC regular season champion will be crowned this weekend. And the men’s hockey team sits in the driver’s seat.

The No. 11 Bulldogs (19-6-2, 14-4-2 ECAC) control their own destiny atop the conference standings, leading second-place Princeton by two points. Racking up three points in games against No. 10 Cornell and Colgate this weekend would clinch Yale’s first Cleary Cup since the 1997-’98 season.

Yale welcomes the Big Red (17-6-4, 12-5-3) to Ingalls Rink tonight for a 7 p.m. contest and then confronts the Red Raiders (10-16-6, 5-11-4) on Sunday for a 4 p.m. face-off.

A 2-0 loss to No. 6 Princeton last weekend put an end to Yale’s 10-game unbeaten streak, which began on Jan. 17. Early in the streak, the Bulldogs upset then-No. 3 Cornell in a close 4-3 contest, then followed things up with a dramatic come-from-behind victory at Colgate. Those wins began the string of four straight ECAC sweeps that finally ended last weekend.

Cornell defeated RPI and Union at home last weekend to end what had been a 2-5-1 skid in the past eight games. The Big Red are third in the conference standings, three points back of first place. They are second in the nation with a 1.85 goals against average, due in large part to goaltender Ben Scrivens’ solid play all season. The junior netminder leads the nation with a .940 save percentage and is second in goals against with a 1.62 average.

The Red Raiders are 3-1-1 in their last five games, yet they sit in 10th place in conference standings. Junior forward David McIntyre leads the ECAC with 19 goals, enough for eighth in the nation with a .59 goals per game average.

While winning the conference tournament is the only way to guarantee a bid to the NCAA tournament, clinching the Cleary Cup is still a tremendous honor – and a great way to bolster a team’s credentials for an at-large bid.

“If we clinch the regular season title, that would put us in a very good position for an at-large bid,” left winger Denny Kearney ’11 said. “It’s a safety net if we’re not able to win the tournament.”

Everything looks to hinge on tomorrow night’s contest against perennial powerhouse Cornell. Kearney admitted that Yale’s away victory against the Big Red gives the team some confidence, especially since the Bulldogs know that their style of play matches up well against their opponents.

“Obviously, tomorrow is a huge game,” Kearney added. “If we win, that really puts us in the driver’s seat for clinching the league title. … It’s not an opportunity that comes down every day.”

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