MEN’S HOCKEY: Elis host ECAC leader

With home ice already clinched for the first round of the ECAC tournament, the No. 15 men’s hockey team plays its final two games this weekend at Ingalls hoping to finish off the year with its first weekend sweep.

Yale (14–8–5, 9–7–4 ECAC) has not picked up two wins in a weekend all season and would have to pick up all four points if the Bulldogs hope to vault into fourth place in the ECAC, guaranteeing the team a first-round bye in the conference tournament. To earn those four points, the Bulldogs will have to beat conference rivals No. 3 Union and Rensselaer.

“We need these two wins and we can still get a bye in the first round,” defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 said. “We really need to close out these games in the third period and build up some momentum going into the playoffs.”

Last weekend the Bulldogs came close to four points after trouncing Harvard 5-–2 in Cambridge, but were denied when Dartmouth tied the game with a minute and a half left to play in the third. The Elis had found themselves in an early 2–0 hole, but stormed back with three unanswered goals to take a 3–2 lead. However, the Big Green forced overtime and hung on to share a point with the Bulldogs.

Against Dartmouth, the Eli blue line was held without a point for just the second time since November.

The blue-liners have been a significant part of Yale’s offense — ranked 12th in the nation — all season long. Yale defensemen have scored 29 goals this season, which is already more than double the production — 14 goals — from the defense during last year’s national championship campaign. Perennial point producer Tommy Fallen ’15 leads the unit with seven goals. Last year’s ECAC all-rookie team selection Obuchowski and Gus Young ’14, whose previous career high was 9 points, headline the blue line with 16 points apiece.

Yale’s forwards have exhibited balanced scoring all year, with 11 players posting more than eight points. Eli’s senior duo of center Jesse Root ’14 and left wing Kenny Agostino ’14 have scored 25 goals between themselves, accounting for nearly 28 percent of Yale’s goal production. The Bulldogs’ captain is having the best offensive season of his career, posting 30 points in 24 games. Root has been on fire in the last third of the season, posting 20 points in his last 11 games. Agostino, who is on a three-game point streak, has been a consistent producer all season, posting a team-high 13 goals while failing to register a point in just six games.

“This weekend we need to play strong defense and have good defensive zone coverage against two really solid offensive teams,” Obuchowski said. “Doing our jobs in the defensive third will lead to offense.”

Against Union (22–6–4, 16–3–1) the Bulldog offense will have to contend with the second-highest scoring team in the nation. The Dutchmen have already clinched the conference title, a first-round bye and home ice throughout the ECAC tournament, but will be looking for the series sweep against Yale on Friday night. The Elis were trounced 5–3 in Schenectady, N.Y., on Feb. 8 after Union scored three unanswered goals in the third period to break open a game that was tied 2–2 after two frames.

The Dutchmen have a similar scoring attack to Yale, with 12 players registering double-digit points and two blue-liners among their top four point producers. The forward tandem of Daniel Carr and Daniel Caimpini lead the team with 15 and 16 goals, respectively. Goaltender Colin Stevens, who boasts the best win percentage in the ECAC, has not lost since Jan. 31. He has the 11th best goals against average in the nation.

“Both teams this weekend are great teams so we are expecting competitive and tough games,” forward Nicholas Weberg ’15 said. “We go into every weekend with the mindset of getting four points and in this case we are raring to give Union a good game considering our performance up there two weeks ago.”

On Saturday night, the Elis face off against RPI (13–13–6, 7–8–5) in the Bulldogs’ last regular season game. RPI forward Ryan Haggerty has the most goals in the ECAC with 24 and leads the Engineers with 38 points. Goaltender Scott Diebold leads the conference with 786 saves, which is 134 more than the next highest total by any ECAC netminder. Yale beat the Engineers three weeks ago thanks to forward Mike Doherty’s ’17 power-play goal with just a minute left in overtime.

Saturday night Yale will honor its three seniors: Root, Agostino and Young. Despite its small size, the class of 2014 has been instrumental to Yale success over the last few years. The trio has played in more than 300 games and amassed 249 points combined up to this point. Agostino is 13th on Yale’s all time scoring and points lists.

The puck will drop for both games at 7:00 p.m.

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