Five months ago, the ECAC coaches predicted in a preseason poll that the men’s hockey team would win the regular season title. This weekend, the No. 5 Bulldogs are in position to do just that.
Two points away from clinching its second consecutive ECAC regular season title, Yale (18–6–3, 14–4–2 ECAC) ends its regular season with trips to ninth-place Princeton tonight and seventh-place Quinnipiac on Saturday. No. 9 Cornell and No. 15 Union both trail the Elis in the conference standings by two points — or one win.
Although the regular season title does not have a direct effect on NCAA Tournament bids, this weekend will be important to keep the team high in the national rankings. Yale is currently sixth in the PairWise rankings, meaning the Bulldogs are looking at a No. 2 seed in next month’s tournament.
“Winning the regular season title would be a pretty big deal, especially because we’ve only done it twice in our history,” left winger Brian O’Neill ’12 said. “Being the No. 1 seed helped a lot last year [in the ECAC Tournament] and would hopefully help if we get it again this year.”
Already on a six-game win streak, the Bulldogs will try to match last season’s eight-game win streak as they head into the ECAC Tournament. Yale has already clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament, and will therefore begin postseason play with a best-of-three quarterfinal round, set to begin at Ingalls Rink on March 12.
The Elis have already met the Tigers twice this season, winning both times by a margin of three goals. Recently, though, Princeton has put together two big upsets over top ECAC teams.
Three weeks ago, the Tigers dethroned then-first place Cornell with a 5–3 victory. Then, last Saturday, Princeton crushed fourth-place RPI, 7–0, on the road.
The Bulldogs will end their regular season at cross-town rival Quinnipiac on Saturday. Although the Elis will be only about 10 miles away from Ingalls Rink, Quinnipiac’s TD Banknorth Sports Center may prove to be one of the most hostile environments Yale has faced all year.
“It’s the biggest game for [Quinnipiac], so their fans make it a really fun environment for us to play in,” O’Neill said.
After starting out 7–0–0 in the ECAC and being ranked No. 4 in the country, the Bobcats have collapsed ever since their 7–4 loss to the Bulldogs at Ingalls Rink on Dec. 4. Since that game, Quinninipiac has gone 2–10–0 in the conference and is currently on a three-game losing streak.
Both games can be heard on wybc.com. Saturday’s game against Quinnipiac will be broadcast on NESN, starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday’s contest against Princeton begins at 7 p.m.