Having to battle through injuries, the No. 13 men’s hockey team will travel to upstate New York to face RPI and No. 4 Union in another crucial conference doubleheader. The weekend gives the Bulldogs (11–6–4, 6–5–3 ECAC), sixth in the ECAC, a chance pick up points against conference leaders Union (17–6–3, 11–3–0) after squaring off against RPI (11–11–4, 5–6–3 ECAC) on Friday night.
“I think a strength of our team is in its depth,” forward Charles Orzetti ’16 said. “On game night we tune out the distraction and stuff we can’t control, like the injuries. It takes discipline to focus on the task at hand and I think we’re getting better at that as a team.”
Last weekend’s thrilling games came at a heavy cost for the already banged-up Eli forwards. Winger Anthony Day ’15, who has been a potent attacking threat during his 15 games, left the ice on Friday night barely able to skate off under his own power. The junior had already missed six games with a knee injury and is not expected to return for this weekend’s action. Additionally, center Stu Wilson ’16 left Saturday night’s game early in the first with an unspecified injury.
The injuries added to four other sidelined Bulldogs, including forwards Carson Cooper ’16, Mike Doherty ’17 and Tim Bonner ’17, as well as defenseman Alex Ward ’15. The return dates on the six injured skaters are unknown.
Despite the absence of some of the Elis’ top offensive performers, the Bulldog attack, ranked 12th in the nation, has been flying thanks in part to scoring from the blueline. Yale defensemen have tallied seven goals and five assists for 12 points in the last two weeks, bringing their season total to 51 points. The last time a blueliner failed to register a point was in the Elis’ 4–1 loss to Dartmouth on Dec. 6. The usually defensive minded Gus Young ’14 has been having a breakout offensive season with 6 goals and eight assists. The senior has scored in three straight games and five in the last seven. Move-the-puck-defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 has also been heating up recently, with 5 points in his last three games. Fast-skating Tommy Fallen ’15 and Rob O’Gara ’16 have also chipped in this season with 11 and nine points, respectively.
“I think the experience of the corps helps in getting points,” Obuchowski said. “We have confidence to jump up in the play and make ourselves open and get shots through to the net.”
The Elis have outscored their opponents 31–17 since returning from break thanks in part to goaltender Alex Lyon’s ’17 fine defensive play in net. The rookie netminder ranks 17th in the nation in goals against average and 19th in save percentage. He has played more minutes in net than any other freshman in the ECAC, featuring in 18 games so far. The Bulldogs have the 13th best defense in the nation, surrendering just 2.24 goals per game.
The Bulldogs have continued to display a balanced scoring attack this season. Seventeen players have tallied more than four points so far for the nation’s 12th best offense. Yale’s premier left-winger, Kenny Agostino ’14, has showcased his NHL talents since the start of the new year with 10 points in the last eight games. The Calgary Flames prospect leads the team with 10 goals. His linemate, captain Jesse Root ’14, has tallied 11 assists in the same stretch.
On Friday against the Engineers, the Bulldogs will face off against the goaltender with the most saves in the conference, as well as top goal scorer in the league. In net, Scott Diebold has helped RPI win three of its last four, including a 2–1 upset of Union on Jan. 25. Forward Ryan Haggerty leads the ECAC with 21 goals and scored two goals last weekend against St. Lawrence. The Elis lost both games against RPI last season by a combined 2–10 goals and have found the Engineers very difficult to beat under head coach Keith Allain’s ’80 stewardship, posting a record of 6-6-1 since the 2005–2006 season.
Saturday night, Yale takes on ECAC leaders Union. The Dutchmen have found success this season behind the sixth ranked offense in the nation, averaging just under 3.5 goals per game, and goaltender Scott Stephens, who has three shutouts this year.
The Bulldogs have failed to pick up a win against Union since a 4–0 victory in 2011.
“We need to play with great structure and discipline,” defenseman Mitch Witek ’16 said. “That sort of team concept should frustrate [our opponents] into making mistakes that we can then capitalize on.”
Yale faces off against RPI on Friday night and Union on Saturday. Faceoff for both games is at 7:00 p.m.