After falling to the fifth spot in ECAC standings over the past couple of weeks, the No. 13 Yale men’s hockey team (13–9–3, 9–8–1 ECAC) is looking at this weekend’s matchups against the No. 1 Quinnipiac Bobcats (22–4–4, 15–1–2 ECAC) and Princeton (9–12–4, 7–8–3 ECAC) as nothing but opportunity.
Tonight the Bulldogs will head across town to Hamden to take on the No. 1 NCAA powerhouse Bobcats at 7:30 p.m. The Elis were ranked at the No. 1 spot in Division I for most of the 2010–’11 season, but the last time they faced off against a No. 1 ranked team was against Boston College in 2001. The following night, the Elis will make the trek to Princeton, N.J., to take on the Tigers, against whom Yale muscled out its most recent win on Feb. 1. The Bulldogs also lost goalkeeper Jeff Malcolm ’13 on Feb. 1 during the Princeton game. In order to take down the top-ranked Bobcats and the Tigers, the Elis will need to pull themselves out of a scoring slump and keep things simple over the weekend.
“We haven’t scored a five-on-five goal since the Princeton game,” head coach Keith Allain said. “We need to find a way to generate offense five-on-five.”
Earlier in the season, the Bulldogs cranked out six straight unbeaten games and five straight wins, but now the Elis have lost four straight matchups. The Elis know how to get out of the slump, and this weekend will provide them the opportunity to win a few more ECAC points before playoffs.
“I think we have to stick to our system,” captain Andrew Miller ’13 said. “When you’re in a slump, you have to simplify. The more shots, the better.”
While Allain said they try to treat each contest the same, the extra push from playing a No. 1 team in front of a packed house across town as well on national television can help the Bulldogs focus on getting back to basics.
“Everyone will come to play, and it’s going to be a great atmosphere,” defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 said.
When the Elis line up against the Bobcats, they will be taking on a solid defensive team.
Allain said the Bulldogs are traditionally a transition team, but strong defense and goaltending will prevent the Elis from creating as many scoring opportunities on the rush as they would like. While none of Quinnipiac’s attackers are listed in the top 50 point-getters in Division I, its senior goaltender Eric Hartzell is ranked second among Division I goalies.
While the Bobcats hold the No. 1 spot, they have lost some of their momentum as St. Lawrence ended Quinnipiac’s 21-game undefeated streak last weekend, giving the Elis an opportunity to face the crosstown opponent while neither team is on a hot streak.
The top four teams in the ECAC will receive a bye in the first round of playoffs, so wins over both the Bobcats and the Tigers are essential in hoisting Yale over Union and St. Lawrence, who are now tied for the fourth spot in ECAC standings.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to play a playoff game regardless,” Allain said.
Allain said that as long as the Elis show up ready to play when playoffs come around, they can work their way through the bracket one game at a time.
Tonight’s matchup will be broadcast live on NBC Sports, and the puck will drop in Hamden, Conn., at 7:30 p.m. Tomorrow’s matchup will be in Hobey Baker Memorial Rink, and the faceoff will be at 7 p.m.