M. HOCKEY | Bulldogs angle for home-ice advantage

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Photo by Charlie Croom.

The Bulldogs (10–13–2, 7–10–1 ECAC) could be playing their last home games of the season when they take on Dartmouth and Harvard on Friday and Saturday. After this weekend’s homestand, the Elis will finish up the regular season next weekend when they travel to Princeton and Quinnipiac.

But a few more games in front of the Ingalls crowd are not yet entirely out of the question. The top four teams in the ECAC get first-round byes in the postseason tournament, but this advantage is unlikely for the Bulldogs. Instead, Yale is likely to finish in the bottom eight of the ECAC. The four teams which comprise the upper half of the bottom eight each play a three-game home series against one of the bottom four teams. Currently, the Bulldogs are in eighth place, which would barely qualify them to host a first-round series at Ingalls against the team that finishes in ninth. Whether or not the Elis maintain home ice advantage depends on the team’s success over the next two weekends.

“It’s huge to get home ice advantage, not only because of the fans, but also because if we get home ice advantage we will have won most of the next four games, which will give us some good momentum going into the playoffs,” forward Antoine Laganiere ’13 said.

Yale is coming off a hard-fought but frustrating 0–2 weekend against top-notch ECAC competition. The Bulldogs traveled to upstate New York last weekend and took on Colgate and Cornell, falling 4–2 on consecutive nights. The Elis played solid hockey in both games and actually outshot the Raiders and the Big Red by a combined 69–53 margin.

“[Last weekend] was terribly frustrating, especially Colgate,” Laganiere said. “I thought we played better than them the whole game. We got a couple bad bounces, including a late one at the end to break the tie. That seems to be the story of the year.“

Although Yale’s offense created enough pressure to succeed last weekend, the Elis could not take advantage of enough goal-scoring opportunities to outpace the high-powered Colgate and Cornell offenses. This included a woeful 1–13 performance on the power play over the course of the two games, continuing a trend that has plagued the team since the start of the second semester. Prior to the Elis’ Jan. 14 matchup against St. Lawrence, they had gone 19–67 with a man-advantage, good for a 28 percent conversion rate that put them as high as second in the nation in that category. But since that game, they have scored just six goals in 45 power plays, a paltry 13 percent mark.

However, the power play might lose its significance if this weekend’s games go anything like the team’s last matchups against Dartmouth and Harvard did. Three weeks ago when the Bulldogs traveled to take on the two Ivy League foes, they only went on the power play three times and converted once. Laganiere remarked that although the Harvard game was fairly clean overall, he thought the low amount of power plays was likely a coincidence.

The Elis first skate against the Big Green (9–12–4, 6–9–3) on Friday. Dartmouth gave Yale a run for its money when the teams last played on Jan. 28. After heading into the second period down 4–1, the Bulldogs stormed back and captured a 5–4 victory when forward Kenny Agostino ’14 scored with 34 seconds remaining. With the two teams deadlocked at 15 points apiece in the ECAC standings, Friday’s game will be strongly contested.

Although the Dartmouth game will be televised on NBC Sports Network, Saturday’s game against Harvard (8–7–10, 6–4–8) will likely be the game to watch. Aside from the rivalry, the game will give the Elis a chance to put a serious dent in the five points separating the two teams in the ECAC standings.

The most interesting matchup on the ice this weekend is between Harvard forward Alex Killorn and Yale captain Brian O’Neill ’12. The two are almost identical statistically and have each led their respective teams offensively. Although O’Neill has tallied 17 goals to Killorn’s 16, Killorn leads O’Neill in points, 31 to 30. Like O’Neill, Killorn has been a force to reckon with on the power play. He has notched eight power-play goals through 25 games, just two fewer than O’Neill’s Division I high of 10. Laganiere, who played with Killorn at Deerfield Academy prior to Yale, said that despite their similar numbers, the two players have distinct playing styles.

“They’re two hard-working players, two very skilled players,” Laganiere said. “I think O’Neill is a little grittier and works harder. Obviously, it’s been a couple years since I played with Killorn, but from what I remember he’s very skilled and dangerous when he’s on the puck, but when he doesn’t have the puck I think it’s to O’Neill’s advantage.”

Last time the two sides met, Killorn had the upper hand. The senior from Quebec scored twice, including the game-winner with just 1:19 left to play. Still, O’Neill made it interesting by scoring a goal in the first period that gave the Bulldogs a 2–1 lead. Whether or not O’Neill or Killorn has the hot hand on Saturday could give either team an advantage.

For the Bulldogs, the goalie situation remains unclear. After Jeff Malcolm ’13 and Nick Maricic ’13 had alternated in net for three consecutive weeks, Connor Wilson ’15 made the trip last weekend and saw action in the Cornell game. At this point, it is reasonable to expect to see any of the Elis’ three goaltenders between the pipes.

The Bulldogs will kick things off at 7:40 p.m. on Friday against Dartmouth and round out the weekend when the puck drops at 7 p.m. for Saturday night’s game against Harvard.

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