MEN’S HOCKEY: Bulldogs to face test up north

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Photo by Ken Yanagisawa.

After going undefeated in four non-conference games over break, the No. 8 men’s hockey team will head to upstate New York to take on two strong ECAC opponents. On Friday, the Bulldogs (8–3–4, 3–2–3 ECAC) face off against No. 14 Clarkson (13–7–2, 6–2–0 ECAC) and then make a short 15-minute trip south to St. Lawrence (8-10-2, 2-4-2 ECAC) on Saturday.

In the Elis’ four games before the Christmas layoff, the Bulldogs went 1–2–1 and had failed to win an ECAC game since Nov. 22 against Colgate. Over break, however, the Elis dominated three non-ranked opponents and tied No. 18 Vermont in Burlington.

“We had some tough games before break where we thought we played well but didn’t get a win, so it’s definitely nice to string some good games together during break,” forward Mike Doherty ’17 said.

In those four games, Yale outscored its opponents 18–8 and was reenergized by the returns from injury of star forwards Anthony Day ’15 and captain Jesse Root ’14. Root picked up two assists while Day added a goal and two helpers in the four games to continue his scoring renaissance.

That period also saw the reemergence of left wing Kenny Agostino ’14 as a scoring threat. The Calgary Flames prospect has scored six goals in his last seven games after tallying only two in the 11 contests prior to that stretch. Center Stu Wilson ’16 has also heated up recently, scoring two goals and adding three assists over the break.

It has been the play of freshman goaltender Alex Lyon ’17, however, that has been most impressive as of late. The Baudette, Minn. native posted a .958 save percentage over break and was phenomenal in New York and Burlington. Lyon was a nominee for the ECAC Rookie and Goaltender of the Week awards presented on Jan. 14. The netminder claimed the full-time starting job six games into the season and has averaged just over 24 saves per game in his twelve contests.

“Lyon has been great for us,” forward Tommy Fallen ’16 said. “He’s proven to us and the coaching staff that he’s reliable and that comes from the high level of competition for that position by both [Patrick] Spano [’17] and [Connor] Wilson [’15]. He’s been solid, and having a guy back there that the whole team trusts is always beneficial for how well we play.”

The Bulldogs will need both Agostino and Lyon to have strong games this weekend as the Elis are facing what might be their toughest doubleheader of the season. Yale faced the Knights and Saints at the Whale back in the beginning of November. In those contests, the Elis skated to a comeback 3–3 OT tie against St. Lawrence and a big 6–3 win against Clarkson. The six conceded goals were a season high for the Knights, who have given up no more than four in any other game so far.

Clarkson has struggled as of late, losing four of its last six games after previously winning six of its last seven games. The Knights have a solid offense, boasting eight players in double digits in the points column, and are off to their best start in 13 years. The northerners have been solid at home, losing only twice and giving up just over two goals per game on their own ice.

Saint Lawrence has also been going through a tough stretch, losing eight of their last 10 games. The Saints have been defeated in five straight games against ranked opponents, including North Dakota, Vermont and Clarkson. However, Saint Lawrence have two of the biggest scoring threats in the nation with Greg and Matt Carey. Older brother Greg, a Hobey Baker Award Finalist last year, is second in the nation in points and assists. Matt has scored 13 goals this season, only one fewer than his older sibling, and ranks 21st in the nation in points. The Carey brothers have helped the Saints create the most fearsome power play unit in Division-I hockey, scoring on almost 30 percent of their man advantages.

The Bulldogs will need to be wary of the Saints’ threat. Despite having taken the second fewest penalty minutes in the NCAA this season—averaging just over 7 minutes per game — Yale has been poor at defending the powerplay. The Elis ranks 48th in the nation in that category, conceding goals on over 33 percent of opponents’ changes.

The Bulldogs have been strong away from home this year (2–1–2) and average 3.4 goals a game on the road. The weekend’s matchups are especially important for the Bulldogs’ ECAC title chances. The Bulldogs, who were picked by ECAC coaches to win the league, are sixth in the conference behind Clarkson (third) and table-toppers Quinnipiac.

The Bulldogs take on Clarkson on Friday night and Saint Lawrence on Saturday night. Face off time for both games is 7 p.m.

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