M. HOCKEY | Tough road games ahead

Five days removed from their first loss of the season, the No. 5 Bulldogs (5–1–0, 2–0–0 ECAC) will look to rebound when they take on Cornell and Colgate in upstate New York this weekend.

The games mark a return to normalcy for the Elis. The first of their games last weekend came after a cross-country flight to Colorado and was played on an Olympic-sized rink — 15 feet wider than Yale’s home ice. Their second, a 4–3 loss to Air Force, was played at 7,258 feet of altitude. The thin air seemed to wear on Yale, and they looked sluggish as the Falcons came back in the third period with four unanswered goals.

Like last week, Yale faces a pair of struggling hockey teams — the Big Red (2–4–0, 2–2–0) and the Raiders (2–5–1, 0–3–1) are both coming off losses and have win percentages below 50 percent.

But Cornell’s record might not be indicative of the team’s strength. The Big Red started off last season slowly but caught fire late in the season, rallying to win the ECAC Tournament before falling to New Hampshire in the NCAA East Regional Semifinal. This season, the Big Red most recently recorded a 2–1 loss against Princeton.

“Cornell’s always one of the top teams in the league, and I think they have been for the past 10 years,” forward Denny Kearney ’11 said. “They may have had a slow start, but I don’t think this year will be any different. They’re going to be up there.”

Rookie forward Dustin Mowrey leads Cornell in points, with five on three goals and two assists. Five of Mowrey’s teammates are tied for the second-most points on the team, with four apiece. The Big Red’s special teams have converted only 3 of 28 power-play chances so far this season.

Cornell’s Lynah Rink is one of the most hostile environments the Bulldogs will travel to this year, but forward Andrew Miller ’13 said he was looking forward to the atmosphere.

“The atmosphere is great. They pack their arena, and crowd is right up on the glass. It is one of the best places to play in college hockey.”

Yale has topped the Big Red in their past five meetings — including both contests last year, but Cornell holds a 75–55–5 lead in the all-time series. The second win last season came in a 2–1 overtime nail-biter, which forward Sean Backman ’10 ended when he converted a feed from left winger Brian O’Neill ’12 at 3:17 into extra time.

Colgate has dropped its last three games, most recently falling 3–1 to Quinnipiac. The Raiders lead the all-time series with Yale 45–37–4, but the Blue have captured four of the past six games, going 1–0–1 against Colgate in the 2009-10 season. Both of the Raiders’ wins this year have come after Colgate took an early lead in games.

In both wins this season, the Raiders have jumped out to an early lead. The Raiders lost their first game when leading early with the 3-1 loss to Quinnipiac. When Colgate fails to take the first lead, the Raiders are 0–3–1. Last weekend at Clarkson and St. Lawrence, they surrendered lead in both games.

“Obviously Colgate has been up and down, but they have a lot of skilled forwards,” Kearney said. “Every team in this league is dangerous, so you can’t overlook them.”

Yale, which spent a week as the nation’s No. 3 team — its highest ranking ever — fell back to fifth place in the most recent USCHO poll after losing to Air Force Sunday night. But the Blue nonetheless continue to dominate national statistics — particularly in offense.

The Elis have three of the country’s top five players in the points-per-game category. Forward Broc Little ’11 and Kearney are tied for the No. 2 slot, with a ppg of 2.00, and O’Neill is tied for fourth in the nation with 1.83 ppg. Kearney and O’Neill also share the No. 1 slot for goals per game, and Yale boasts the nation’s top scoring offense, with 32 goals in six games.

Goaltender Ryan Rondeau ’11 had started and won four games straight for Yale before head coach Keith Allain put Jeff Malcolm ’13 between the pipes against Air Force. Rondeau’s perfect win percentage leads the national rankings.

But the Elis also top the country in a less-desirable category: penalty minutes. Yale has accrued 145 penalty minutes so far this season, racking up 48 on 16 infractions in the Air Force game.

“Hopefully we can cut that down and be a little more disciplined,” Kearney said. “Our penalty kill has been playing well, but we’d rather not be killing off any penalties.”

The puck drops against Cornell at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The Elis will face off against Colgate at 7 p.m. the following day.

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