In a league where five teams are within one win of each other, it is time to separate the men from the boys in the ECAC.
No. 10 Cornell (6-2-0, 3-1-0 ECAC) and Colgate (3-8-0, 2-2-0 ECAC) each come to Ingalls this weekend. If they win both games, the fifth-place Bulldogs could find themselves atop the ECAC.
If the Bulldogs’ 4-3 overtime loss to No. 6 Boston University is any indication, the Elis will not let the Big Red leave Ingalls without a fight.
“We know we can play with the best teams in the nation,” winger Mike Klema ’02 said. “[Cornell] will be a close game.”
The Elis will look to wingers Jason Noe ’02, Denis Nam ’03 and Klema to repeat their performance from Yale’s last game against Princeton Nov. 24. The trio exploded for eight of Yale’s 15 points in their 6-1 victory over the Tigers.
The march to the top of the ECAC will not be an easy one for the Bulldogs, who will have a difficult time producing the same kind of offensive fireworks against Cornell in what will be a battle of the ECAC’s top two defenses and goalies.
The Bulldog defense allows 2.5 goals a game, which is the second best in the ECAC. The Big Red allows an average of 1.5 goals per game. Goalie Dan Lombard is second in the ECAC with a save percentage of .918, while Cornell goalie Matt Underhill’s .929 save percentage is best in the ECAC.
There might also be a game-time change in the Elis’ lineup. The status of winger Ryan Steeves ’04, who injured his hip flexor over Thanksgiving break, will be a game time decision for head coach Tim Taylor.
Yale nipped Cornell 1-0 in overtime last season.
Since then, Yale graduated captain Ben Stafford ’01 and All-American Jeff Hamilton, while Cornell returns its top 10 scorers and Underhill.
Although defense might be the name of tonight’s game, the key for the Bulldogs on offense will be their ability to counter Cornell’s size, Taylor said. The Big Red are on average five pounds heavier and almost two inches taller than their Bulldog counterparts.
“[Cornell] clogs up the ice real well,” Nam said. “We’ll be able to outskate them but they’ll have the size advantage.”
Against Colgate, the Bulldogs will focus more on their work around the boards than their ability to break the defense, Taylor said.
“The game plan is to win the physical battles,” Taylor said.
Colgate, which leads the ECAC in penalty minutes per game, should give the Bulldogs plenty of opportunities to improve their power play, which so far is a mediocre sixth in the ECAC.
The Bulldogs are ahead of Colgate in the ECAC, but Yale lost to the Raiders twice last year, so Taylor expects a tough game. Colgate will look to winger Dmitry Yashin, younger brother of New York Islanders star Alexei Yashin, to lead the offense against the Bulldogs.
If the Bulldogs want to come out on top, Taylor believes they will have to show the same commitment they showed in their overtime victory last season against Cornell.
“We played [the Cornell] game with a lot of heart and a lot of resolve,” Taylor said. “We’re going to have to match that in these games and for the rest of the year.”