MEN’S HOCKEY: Bulldogs look for sweep of Big Green, Crimson

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Photo by Jennifer Cheung.

The Yale men’s hockey team stays home this weekend for its final conference games of 2013 against Dartmouth and Harvard.

Coming off a thrilling 3–2 overtime victory against Merrimack last Saturday, the No. 8 Bulldogs (6–2–2, 3–1–2 ECAC) are hoping to continue their winning ways.

“Our main goal is obviously to come away with two wins,” defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 said. “Playing a better team game is something else we are focused on.”

Dartmouth (1–8–0, 1–6–0) currently sits in last place in the conference, one point behind Brown. The Big Green possess one of the worst defenses in the nation, allowing 4.67 goals per game, which ranks 57th out of 59 Division I teams.

The fact that Dartmouth struggles to defend, however, does not mean much to O’Gara.

“I don’t think there is a big strategy shift,” O’Gara said. “I think we should…play fast Yale hockey to hopefully take advantage of a possible weakness.”

But no matter how many goals the Elis can net, one major question facing Yale is the goalie situation. A pair of freshmen, Alex Lyon ’17 and Patrick Spano ’17, has split all 10 games between the pipes. Lyon played the entirety of last week’s game against Merrimack except for 10 seconds of an empty net, as well as both games the weekend before against Colgate and Cornell. Lyon, however, said he did not know who would start against Dartmouth as of press time.

Harvard (4–6–1, 2–5–1) comes in having lost four of its last six ECAC games. The matchup serves as a preview of next month’s game, when the two foes battle in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. But this matchup should feature high tensions at Ingalls Rink.

“Everybody’s pretty excited for Harvard. The building’s going to be rocking that night,” Lyon said. “Staying focused but embracing the atmosphere is going to be big.”

O’Gara said that though the Elis will face the Crimson very soon after this weekend, the team’s preparation will not change.

Stopping Harvard forwards Kyle Criscuolo and Jimmy Vesey, whose seven goals each are more than any Yale player on the year, is key to the Bulldogs’ chance at victory. The Elis need their leading scorer, forward Mike Doherty ’17, to put the puck past Cantab goalie Raphael Girard, who ranks 10th in the nation at just 1.85 goals allowed per game.

Penalties figure to play a key role in this weekend’s contests, with each of the Elis’ opponents excelling on one facet of special teams. Dartmouth is second in the country in power play percentage, converting 27.78% of their opportunities on the season. Harvard, meanwhile, is third in the nation in penalty killing, preventing its opposition from scoring 90.5% of the time.

The Bulldogs have not had much luck stopping penalties, allowing goals on 25% of their shorthanded opportunities, second-to-last in the conference. But Yale has stayed out of the penalty box, incurring the wrath of the officials for just 8:20 minutes per game.

“We’ve been working on our penalty kill quite a bit,” Lyon said. “They’ve got a couple pretty good defensemen who can shoot the puck, so the main thing is blocking shots and getting in shooting lanes.”

After this weekend, Yale next plays on Dec. 27 against the Russian Red Stars in an exhibition game.

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