UPDATED: 11:53 p.m.The Yale student section erupted into a zealous chant of “We’re number one!” as the Elis saluted the crowd after a 5–0 Yale trouncing of No. 13 Union. But what was hopeful fan speculation on Sunday became reality the next afternoon.
The streaking Bulldogs (10–1, 6-0 ECAC) seized the national No. 1 hockey ranking in both major national hockey polls on Monday for the first time in program history. The Blue earned 34 of 50 first place in the USCHO rankings and 24 of 33 in USA Today’s. Those votes vaulted Yale past Minnesota-Duluth (12–2–2), which was the near-unanimous No. 1 choice last week and had held the top slot since Nov. 15.
Yale’s unprecedented climb came after the team aced both tests in its biggest weekend of the year. The Elis knocked off then No. 15/16 RPI, 4-2 Friday night. They then decimated No. 13 Union, 5-0 in a nationally-televised game Sunday afternoon.
“They’ll have my vote [for No. 1],” Union head coach Nate Leaman said after the game. “They’re the best team I’ve seen yet. I haven’t seen a better group of forwards in a long time.”
Minnesota-Duluth, on the other hand, had their five-game winning streak snapped with a 5–4 overtime loss to then No. 10 Denver (11–5–2) Friday night. Minnesota-Duluth squeaked past the same foes 2-1 the next day, but the damage was done. Yale was, in fact, the only team to stand strong amid national upsets on Friday, as then No. 8 Boston College (11–5) upset then No. 2/3 Boston University (7–3–5) with a 9–5 decision that night.
Those losses mean that Yale’s current five-game winning streak is the longest active one in the country.
Head coach Keith Allain ’80 deflected a barrage of questions about the possibility of the new ranking after Sunday’s game, saying that national polls are not something the team has discussed this season.
Yale has slowly but steadily climbed the rankings since receiving a No. 5 slot in the USCHO poll at the outset of the season. The Elis received their highest-ever ranking of No. 3 in the Nov. 8 poll. After slipping back to No. 5 following their sole loss of the season to Air Force Academy, the Blue rose back to No. 3 in the Nov. 22 poll. They inched up to a tie with Boston University for No. 2 on Nov. 29.
“We’re happy with [the ranking],” said forward Chad Ziegler ’12 after the polls had been released, “but definitely not satisfied.”
The only No. 1 ranking that matters, he continued, is the one on the books at the end of the season.
An ECAC hockey school has not been ranked No. 1 since Cornell entered the NCAA tournament with the top seed on March 25, 2003.