The Bulldogs will try to climb back to the top of the ECAC standings when they travel to Clarkson and St. Lawrence for conference matchups this weekend. Although Yale was as high as first in the standings earlier this season, it has slipped to a tie for fifth with Harvard due to a mediocre 2–2 record in its last four conference games.
The Bulldogs (8–6–1, 5–3 ECAC) make the trip after a 1–1 showing last weekend that dropped them out of the national rankings for the first time since January of 2009. Despite the drop, forward Charles Brockett ’12 said the team is simply focused on playing its best hockey.
“Being ranked is always an accomplishment, but in reality it doesn’t mean a whole lot, especially at this point in the season,” Brockett said. “We have a long way to go, and we’re feeling confident in our game right now so we’re really not concentrating on the fact that we dropped out of the rankings.”
Despite a frustrating 2–1 loss to Quinnipiac last Friday on home ice, the Bulldogs bounced back Saturday to trounce Princeton 6–2 in a fast-paced and physical game that showed how effective the Elis can be when they are firing on all cylinders. Defenseman Gus Young ’14 said he believes the rebound against Princeton was a result of more energy on the ice.
“We were doing the little things well [against Princeton],” Young said. “We competed for a full 60 minutes, while against Quinnipiac we only had spurts of competing hard.”
Team captain and forward Brian O’Neill ’12 led the attack for the Bulldogs all weekend en route to being named ECAC Player of the Week. Including the four goals he scored in the team’s 9–3 win over Bentley on New Year’s Day, O’Neill had six goals and eight points during the week. O’Neill now has 11 goals and 19 points on the season, both of which are team highs.
This weekend the Blue and White will be challenging two teams that have struggled this season. They will kick off the action Friday night against Clarkson (9–10–4, 3–4–2), a team that is in the midst of a four-game losing streak during which it has been outscored 18–6. The only impressive result on the Golden Knights’ resume is a 0–0 tie against Cornell on Dec. 3.
Clarkson’s propensity for committing penalties is partly to blame for its woes on the ice this season. The Golden Knights are fourth in the nation in penalty minutes with almost 19 per game. The Elis should be well-equipped to take advantage of Clarkson’s mental lapses. Yale currently stands at second in the nation on the power play, converting almost 29 percent of its opportunities. Brockett said that the Elis will take try to force the Clarkson defensemen to make mistakes.
“We have two great power play units that have proven they can score,” Brockett said. “So if we can expose their defense and force their defensemen to chase us around the [offensive] zone, then I think we can execute on the power play and get some big-time goals.”
The Elis will take on St. Lawrence (8–11–2, 4–5) on Saturday evening in Canton, N.Y., a distant seven hours away from New Haven. The Saints have had trouble starting games all season, with only eight of their 50 goals coming in the first period.
“You never want to come out slow, so we’ll come out and try to set the tone and the pace of the game,” Brockett said. “I don’t think we’ll necessarily be looking at stats in terms of how many goals they’ve scored in the first period, because no matter who we play we’re going to come out and set the pace.”
The Bulldogs hope to get on the board early with one of the best scoring offenses in the nation. The Elis have scored 53 goals through 15 games which, at 3.53 goals per game, is fifth among Division I teams.
Adding to the Saints troubles their lack of endurance late in games. By period, St. Lawrence has allowed 16, 22 and 29 goals. Young said that he thinks the Elis have the team endurance to outlast St. Lawrence.
“I think we’re one of the hardest-working, best-endured teams in college hockey,” Young said. “We want to get on them early and get a quick start but we also want to apply pressure throughout the game to take advantage of that.”
The puck drops at 7 p.m. for both contests.