January was a cruel month for the Yale men’s hockey team.
The Bulldogs notched just three victories in nine games, dropped to the bottom half of ECAC standings and lost their national ranking.
But things may be looking up for the Elis. After a tough 4–3 loss to Harvard last Friday night, Yale rebounded in a big way against Dartmouth on Saturday. Despite going down 4–1 after one period of play, the Bulldogs (9–10–2, 6–7–1 ECAC) fought back to take a 5–4 victory. The Elis will need to take that momentum into this weekend’s action in order to break out of their slump.
“We’ve been playing well for the last couple weekends but just haven’t gotten the results,” captain Brian O’Neill ’12 said. “The win against Dartmouth gives us some momentum, so its crucial that we take it into this weekend.”
Leading the charge for the Bulldogs will be O’Neill. The forward was recently named ECAC Player of the Month for January after playing some of the best hockey of his Yale career. O’Neill notched eight goals and 14 points in the Elis’ January games and bumped his team-leading totals up to 13 goals and 25 points for the season. O’Neill’s eight goals were the most among all Division I players and helped him move up to 12th in the nation in goals per game (.62).
O’Neill said that when the team plays well, he plays well because he gets more scoring opportunities.
The biggest question of the weekend for the Bulldogs is whom head coach Keith Allain ’80 will put between the pipes. The past two weekends, the Elis have had little continuity in net with Nick Maricic ’13 and Jeff Malcolm ’13 each starting one game each weekend. The Elis have allowed 13 goals over those 14 games with the two allowing seven and six goals, respectively.
“No matter who is in net, everyone goes out and does their job,” defenseman Gus Young ’14 said. “Whoever is playing in net that night will go out and do the best they can to win, and that goes the same for our defensemen and forwards.”
St. Lawrence (8–15–3, 4–9–1) has fared even worse than the Elis since the two sides last met. The Saints have dropped their past four games and been shut out in their past two. Over the course of the four games, the Saints have been outscored 18–4 including a 4–0 loss to ECAC bottom-feeder RPI (7-18-1, 4-9-1).
The Bulldogs narrowly avoided defeat at the hands of the Saints three weeks ago. After falling behind 3–1 early in the game, the Bulldogs mounted a comeback and tied the game up with less than five minutes remaining to salvage a point in the ECAC standings.
After Friday night’s matchup, the Elis will welcome Clarkson (12–11–5, 6–5–3) on Saturday. Clarkson is currently fourth in the ECAC but only two points ahead of the Bulldogs, who sit at sixth. On the stat sheet, the Golden Knights stick out in one area in particular — penalty minutes. Clarkson is fourth in the nation in penalty minutes, averaging exactly 18 minutes per game, almost seven minutes more than the Bulldogs average.
O’Neill said Clarkson was a physical team when the two teams last met.
Against both teams this weekend, special teams will be a big factor. The last time they played St. Lawrence and Clarkson, the Bulldogs went just 2–13 on the power play and conceded three power play goals to Clarkson. The Elis appeared to rebound last weekend in this respect, going 1–3 on the power play and allowing only one power play goal in seven attempts. The Bulldogs, whose special team units have consistently been among the best in the nation this season, will have to continue last weekend’s rebound to find success this weekend.
“We’re definitely prepared for the challenge [on special teams],” Young said. “Special teams can always play a major role, but we feel that we have a strong enough power play and a strong enough penalty kill to win that battle.”
The puck drops at 7 p.m. for both Friday night’s matchup against St. Lawrence and Saturday night’s game against Clarkson.