MEN’S HOCKEY: Empire state of mind for the Elis

After a dominating non-conference game last weekend, the No. 9 men’s hockey team heads back to ECAC play with a two-game road trip through New York State this weekend. The Bulldogs play Colgate (6–6–1, 4–2–0 ECAC) on Friday and then No. 18 Cornell (4–3–1, 2–3–1) on Saturday.

“It’s starting to become apparent that our players are doing things together more instinctively,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “They are reacting quicker and we made some nice plays and there was support on the puck. All that team play stuff that takes time I think we took a step forward in the Sacred Heart game.”

Last Saturday night, the Bulldogs (4–1–2, 2–0–2) crushed the Pioneers 5–1, with a dynamic performance that included a three-goal second period. Captain Jesse Root ’14 had two goals, while forward Kenny Agostino ’14 added his first goal of the year. Goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 got his first win of his collegiate career, stopping 22 of 23 shots, and should expect to start one of the two games this weekend along with classmate Patrick Spano ’17. The two netminders have been splitting time between the pipes thus far.

Yale exhibits a balanced scoring attack, ranking eight in the nation in total offense, with eight players registering five or more points on the season. Root leads the team with four goals, while forward Carson Cooper ’16 leads the team with five assists. Forward Anthony Day ’15 continued his scoring renaissance by adding an assist last Saturday, making him the top Bulldog point getter with seven points.

“Having that scoring depth is definitely nice,” Cooper said. “It takes away from our opponents trying to shut down one line. It they focus on one, we have three others that will contribute.”

Despite the Bulldogs’ scoring success, Yale could use improvement on special teams. The Elis powerplay has scored on just 0.189 of their extra man opportunities. The penalty kill has fared better, stopping opponents on 0.759 of their advantages.

However, both units are well outside the averages of the top 20 teams in the nation, with the powerplay ranked 30th and the powerplay kill slotting in at 49th. Last weekend Yale scored on two of its seven man advantages, while killing off two of three penalties.

“We just need to execute and finish,” defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 said. “We are getting chances on the p.p., [but] just aren’t putting the puck in the net and on the p.k. we need to stick to the rotation and have good sticks. The other teams are going to get opportunities but we need to limit the quality of those opportunities.”

On Friday night, the Bulldogs will face a squad with similar offensive production from all four lines. The Raiders have four players on their roster with more than nine points through 13 games. Sophomore forward Mike Borkowski ranks 11th in the nation with 10 assists and leads the team with 13 points.

Colgate leads the all-time series 47–43–5, but the Bulldogs have taken six of the last seven contests, including a 4–3 OT win against the Raiders on March 1.

“[The Raiders] are a dynamic offensive team, they actually work pretty hard on both sides of the puck but where their most skill lies is offensively,” Allain said. “They’ve got three lines that can score and their D like to be involved. I think it’s going to be a kind of racehorse game against Colgate. We are going to have to defend and then we are going to work for our ice to get some scoring chances as well.”

The Bulldogs will have to make a short turnaround after Friday night’s game, traveling a little under two hours down Route 13 to Ithica, NY. The nationally ranked Big Red possess another potent offense, with five players averaging over a point a game through eight games.

The Bulldogs will need to be wary of Cornell’s powerplay scoring and limit penalties in the matchup. Cornell is the most efficient powerplay team in the nation, tallying on 31 percent of its opportunities. The Elis again trail 79–60–5 but have won 10 of the last 12, including last season’s sweep of the Big Red.

“Cornell is a little bit different than Colgate, in that they are traditionally a big strong defensive minded hockey team,” Allain said. “They forecheck aggressively and pinch the defense. If we can get some clean breakouts we can maybe create some races in the neutral zone and traditionally that’s been a good way to attack Cornell.”

Yale will hope to build off last Saturday’s comprehensive performance and get four crucial points in ECAC play this weekend. Obuchowski noted that the team needs to keep focusing on playing a team game and doing the little things right in order to find continued success.

The Bulldogs, currently ranked fifth in the ECAC, can jump above Colgate to fourth place in the conference and further their lead over eighth-place Cornell. The Elis trail league-leader Quinnipiac by five points, but have played five fewer games.

“We definitely need to use our speed and push the pace every game.” Cooper said. “Cornell and Colgate are both strong teams and we’ll have to put a full 60 minutes together each night to come home with two wins.”

The Bulldogs face off against the Raiders Friday night and the Big Red Saturday night. The puck drops for both games at 7:00 p.m.

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