The men’s hockey team will hit the road this weekend for two Ivy showdowns, marking the first time since the season-opening Ivy shootout that the team will play Ancient Eight opponents in consecutive games.
The Elis (8–9–2, 5–6–1 ECAC) will travel first to Harvard on Friday night and then to Dartmouth on Saturday. Captain Brian O’Neill ’12 said that despite the hype of playing Harvard, the team will keep things business as usual.
“Obviously Harvard is a rival of ours,” O’Neill said. “But every ECAC game is tough, so we are going to treat it just like any other weekend.”
Over the past two weeks, the Elis are just 0–3–1 and most recently fell to ECAC bottom-feeder RPI by a 2–1 score Saturday night. Unlike last year’s team, which was a sho0-in for the national tournament, this year’s team will likely need to capture the ECAC postseason tournament to get a bid to the NCAAs. Forward Charles Brockett ’12 said that the team needs to start gaining momentum now in order to make such a run.
“It’s important for us to not only play better, but to play the style that we know how to play,” he said. “Building momentum and being able to take that into the postseason would be really important for us.”
The improvements will have to begin on the power play. Although the Elis’ power play has been one of the best in the nation for much of the season, it has not been clicking over the past two weekends. Over that span, the Elis have scored just twice in 22 opportunities, a meager 9 percent conversion rate. This caused the Bulldogs’ overall conversion rate to fall from just over 28 percent to about 24 percent.
“We’re not getting enough pucks to the net, and we’re not being careful enough with the puck around the blue lines,” O’Neill said. “When you’re struggling on the power play, the best thing to do is to simplify and keep getting pucks to the net.”
Against Harvard, however, the penalty kill will likely be more important than the power play. The Crimson (3–4–6, 4–6–8) is first in the nation on the power play, converting just about one in three opportunities. The Cantabs are playing solid hockey and received eight votes in the most recent polling for the national rankings. Despite its solid play, Harvard will be looking for its first win since Dec. 10, when it beat Princeton 4–3. Since then, the Crimson has skated to five ties and three losses. Among the ties are contests with Union, Colgate and Cornell, three of the top four teams in the conference.
“I’m sure they’re hungry for a win,” Brockett said. “But with the tradition we’ve built around here, not winning one game in our last four is unacceptable, so we’re going to be just as hungry as they are.”
After the matchup with Harvard, the Elis will travel north to take on Dartmouth (8–8–2, 5–5–1) for the second time this season. The Bulldogs went head-to-head with the Big Green on Oct. 29 and prevailed 2–1 behind second-period goals from Antoine Laganiere ’13 and Chad Ziegler ’12. In that game the Elis took advantage of some good goaltending by Jeff Malcolm ’13, who saved 29 out of the 30 shots he faced. Heading into this weekend, the situation in net is unclear after Malcolm and Nick Maricic ’13 started a game apiece last weekend. Brockett said that the team will be confident in whomever is between the pipes.
The Big Green is coming off two strong showings in overtime contests last weekend. After falling narrowly to Cornell 4–3 on Friday night, Dartmouth finished the weekend by storming back from a 4–1 deficit and beating Colgate 5–4 on Saturday.
Yale and Harvard have faced off 230 times with the first game occurring on Feb. 26, 1900. The Cantabs lead the series 135–77–18, but Yale has taken four out of the last five.
Two wins this weekend would be huge as the Bulldogs attempt to crawl out of the ECAC basement. After sitting near the top of the conference early in the season, the Elis have slipped to a tie for sixth with Dartmouth. Despite Yale’s slide, the Bulldogs are only three points out of third place and have plenty of time to make up some ground before the end of the regular season.
The puck drops against Harvard at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night and at 7 p.m. against Dartmouth on Saturday.