The Yale men’s hockey team will take a brief respite from ECAC play this Saturday night when they take on Sacred Heart at Ingalls Rink.
Yale (3–1–2, 2–0–2 ECAC) played two key conference games last week, highlighted by last Saturday’s showdown against nearby rival Quinnipiac. The Bulldogs knocked off Princeton 5–2 and managed a tie against the Bobcats 3–3. Goaltender Alex Lyon ’17, who started against Quinnipiac and stopped 48 shots, said that the national championship rematch served as a teaching moment.
“I think it definitely helped me deal with big crowds,” Lyon said. “Getting to this level, you see a bit higher intensity atmosphere. It also gave the team a lot of confidence … to play with a pretty strong program.”
Since losing the first game of the season in a nonconference game against Brown, the Elis have gone on a five-game unbeaten streak. They will look to make it six straight against the Pioneers (2–7, 1–3 Atlantic Hockey), who are coached by former Yale assistant C.J. Marottolo.
Sacred Heart comes into this game having dropped six consecutive games. The Pioneers’ problems have been on both sides of the ice. Their offense has scored just 15 goals in nine games, which ranks 57th out of 59 Division I teams. Meanwhile, their defense has allowed at least four goals in five games during the losing streak.
But Sacred Heart did begin the year with an upset victory over then-No. 1 UMass Lowell, and if the Bulldogs learned anything from last year’s magical national title run, it is that underdogs should never be counted out.
“I don’t think we will look past them,” defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 wrote in an email to the News. “Make no mistake, they are a good team.”
A recurring theme of Yale’s season has been the goalie platoon of Lyon and fellow freshman Patrick Spano ’17. Spano started last Friday’s game against Princeton and the net minder delivered 22 saves to pick up his third victory of the year. Lyon, who has yet to record a victory in goal as a Bulldog, started between the pipes on Saturday.
Lyon said the goaltending situation is up in the air again, and that the coaches must re-evaluate their two possibilities for goal before making a decision for Saturday.
“Goalie uncertainty doesn’t affect us,” Obuchowski said. “Our goalies have played well and given us a chance to win, so we have the utmost confidence in them.”
A first glance at the stat sheet might suggest that the defense struggled against Quinnipiac. The Bobcats kept Lyon busy in the net all game and especially in the final frame, when they fired 22 shots.
But Yale’s penalty kill was outstanding, shutting down all eight of the Bobcats’ power plays. Although the Bobcats managed to put three pucks into the net, that number is below their season average of 3.55 goals.
“I don’t think we played too poorly defensively,” Lyon said. “The scoring chances were pretty even, and Quinnipiac’s style is to shoot the puck and push quantity over quality.”
Yale still has many areas it can improve on, especially its power-play unit. Despite an overall positive weekend, the Bulldogs notched just a single power play goal on 10 opportunities and they have just five scores on 30 penalties all year.
The Sacred Heart match presents another opportunity for the Bulldogs to improve, especially with a man advantage. The Pioneers have killed just 75.6 percent of penalties this year, ranking 50th in the country.
“We need to be more mobile,” captain and forward Jesse Root ’14 said. “We’re too stationary. The biggest thing is guys moving [their] feet and doing a better job getting into the zone.”
Root also said that the Bulldogs need to keep getting better as a team, especially on transition offense.
Saturday’s game at Ingalls Rink starts at 7:00 p.m.