With just six games remaining in the regular season, every game matters for the No. 13 Yale men’s ice hockey team.
Yale currently finds itself in a dogfight for a spot in the NCAA tournament. In order to dig themselves out of this hole, the Bulldogs will need to solve a bigger problem: inconsistency.
The Elis (12–7–4, 7–6–3 ECAC) have won consecutive games just three times all season, with none of those streaks coming on the same weekend. Of the 16 teams tied with or ranked ahead of Yale in the PairWise rankings, all have at least one winning streak of three games or more, a feat Yale has yet to accomplish.
“I think it’s a process,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said of getting his team to compete for two full games each weekend. “We talk about our preparation and go back over everything. We try to make sure we’re doing everything possible to make sure we’re ready to go on Friday night.”
Many of Yale’s woes stem from its struggles in Friday night games. Last week’s overtime victory over RPI snapped a four-game losing skid on Fridays for the Bulldogs and moved them to 3–5–1 in Friday games this season. That figure stands in stark contrast to the team’s 9–2–3 record on Saturdays and Sundays.
Despite the oft-repeated mantra that the Bulldogs “have the same approach for every game,” Yale has also had varying levels of success at home versus on the road, going just 4–4–2 on the road, compared to 6–2–2 at home.
“I don’t think there is one reason to explain this, but it all comes back to every single guy being prepared for every single game,” defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 said in an email to the News. “Unfortunately, our preparation level come game time on Fridays lately has not been as strong as on Saturdays.”
The differences between the team on Fridays and Saturdays is most apparent in the difference between Yale’s offensive performances on those nights. Since December, Yale has averaged just 1.80 goals scored per game on Fridays and 3.85 per game on Saturdays. The team’s best goal differential all year came in a 6–0 victory over Brown just one day after finding the back of the net just once in a 3–1 loss to the Bears on Friday, Jan. 24.
The defensive regression on Fridays, compared with Saturdays is also evident. Yale has allowed 26 goals in nine Friday games, compared to 28 goals allowed in its other 14 games. Before last weekend’s 5–3 loss at No. 3 Union, the Bulldogs had not allowed more than three goals in a Saturday game all year.
“In order for us to have the goal-scoring success we’ve had in Saturday [games] on Fridays, it’s about bringing the intensity both days,” said forward John Hayden ’17. “In the next three weekends, we’re looking to have the same intensity on both [days].”
This weekend features a game that has been circled on everyone’s calendars since last April, as it will be the first time that No. 4 Quinnipiac has played in Ingalls Rink since Yale’s national championship banner was raised to the rafters. That title was earned in a 4–0 smackdown of the Bobcats, but in the teams’ lone matchup this year, the Bulldogs escaped High Point Solutions Arena with a 3–3 tie despite allowing 51 shots while they generated just 20.
The puck drops against Quinnipiac at 7:00 p.m. on Friday.