MEN’S HOCKEY: Bulldogs ready for longtime rivals

The No. 9 men’s hockey team faces another all ECAC weekend headlined by Saturday’s National Championship rematch, with local rival No. 5 Quinnipiac.

The Bulldogs (2–1–1, 1–0–1 ECAC) will first face off against Ivy League rival Princeton (1–3–0, 0–2–0) in a rematch of an Oct. 26 game, which Yale won 3–2. Yale will then travel to Hamden to face the Bobcats (8–1–0, 2–0–0) for the first time since demolishing them 4–0 in the NCAA tournament on April 13. Forward Anthony Day ’15 said that the Bulldogs still have to improve to compete effectively at the highest level of college hockey.

“I still think we need to work on our defensive game, transition hockey and turnovers,” Day said. “We are a young team we are still are not getting total chemistry with each other and as that comes it will make our game a lot smoother.”

Yale has slowly picked up steam this season, as shown by a resounding 6–3 win against No. 16 Clarkson last Saturday.

The Elis’ season did not begin ideally, losing to Brown in their opening game, but responding with a win against Princeton and a come-from-behind tie in Yale’s tricky home opener against St. Lawrence. Against Clarkson, the Bulldogs were able to hold off the Golden Knights’ third period push and come out on top. Captain Jesse Root ’14 said that the Bulldogs still have further to go.

“We want to improve every game and have every guy take a stride and get better,” Root said. “I think we have gotten a lot better in our team game but I think we still have a long way to go.”

Root commented that he hoped to see the team improve on its general structure and forecheck. He added that the Bulldogs need to improve their transition game and defensive zone play. The Bulldogs rank 34th in team defense and no defenseman ranks higher than +1 four games into the season.

Head coach Keith Allain ’80 noted he wanted to see improvement on the Elis special teams play as well. The powerplay unit went 3/12 over the weekend while the penalty kill went 3/5.

In the offensive zone, Day has scored three goals in two games after previously scoring a total of five in his career. The Buffalo native, who has been skating on a line with John Hayden ’17 and Frankie DiChiara ’17, said the increased output was a function of shooting the puck more.

“I pride myself on my shot, and I feel like its transferring in game faster than it has in other seasons,” Day said. “Definitely to see one goes in lets a lot of pressure off and once you see a couple other go in too, you start to feel comfortable out there and its good to see this early.”

On the other end of the ice, Yale’s goaltending situation has continued to be a two-way battle between freshmen Alex Lyon ’17 and Patrick Spano ’17, with the duo again splitting last weekend’s games. Lyon turned away 29 of 32 shots against St. Lawrence, while Spano picked up the win against Clarkson while saving 25 of 28 shots. Allain commented that both netminders exhibit a lot of talent, but neither one has separated themself from the other and have both earned the right to play.

The Bulldogs start the weekend by travelling to Princeton for the Tigers’ first regular season home game of the year.

“[Princeton’s] lines are solid and their goaltending is real good,” Allain said. “They do a good job of getting their D involved in the offense. They are a hard-working, in-your-face kind of hockey team. A week and a half ago we played them in a one goal game and my expectations is that it is going to be tight at the end of the game Friday night as well.”

While the game has been somewhat overshadowed by the titanic matchup the next day, both Root and Allain were quick to point out the team’s focus lies first and foremost on the matchup at hand with Princeton.

The Tigers have lost three straight since their opening overtime win against Dartmouth, but have one of the largest and most experienced senior classes in college hockey and will be a big hurdle for the Elis to clear. Friday’s matchup is the 248th meeting between the two teams and will be the first Ancient Eight game for the Bulldogs. The Elis lead the all-time series 136–102–9 and have won each of the last five meetings between the two.

“We are most focused on Princeton right now,” Root said. “We take it one game at a time. Quinnipiac is a good team. They have been doing well but we are most focused on ourselves. We are focused on what we bring to the game and competing and making sure we are bringing our best game to Quinnipiac Saturday night.”

The rematch of the national championship game has been circled by most college hockey fans as one to watch for. The Elis’ local rivals will be looking to avenge the Bulldogs’ trouncing of the Bobcats in this early season matchup.

Quinnipiac has already put together an impressive season. The Bobcats are on a eight-game win streak that includes a pair of victories against another 2013 Frozen Four team, No. 12 Massachusetts-Lowell. The River Hawks are considered one of this year’s preseason favorites for the national championship.

Despite losing most of their blueline from last season, Quinnipiac is ranked the highest in the nation in team defense and tenth in the nation in team offense. The Bobcats returns most of their key offensive players from last year’s tea,m including captains Connor and Kellen Jones, who both rank in the top 20 in the nation in scoring.

“We are excited about Friday night’s game, no question,” Allain said. “When the time comes to think about Saturday, about 10:30 Friday night, we’ll worry about Saturday.”

The Bulldogs face off against Princeton on Friday evening at 7:00 and against Quinnipiac on Saturday evening at 7:00.

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