With six games remaining in the ECAC regular season, the men’s ice hockey team will need every point it can get if it is to climb out of the ECAC basement and into the playoffs.
The Bulldogs’ season reads like some twisted version of Jekyll and Hyde. With six games remaining in the regular season, the Bulldogs (6-15-2, 5-9-2 ECAC) will have to decide which team they want to be: the squad that dominated then-No. 13 Ohio State (14-12-4) in a 6-2 win or the squad that, in a five minute collapse, blew a 5-3 lead in a 7-5 loss to Clarkson (11-11-6, 7-4-5 ECAC).
“We have to start winning to make the playoffs,” winger Vin Hellemeyer ’04 said. “We need to win as a team for the points and just for the confidence.”
The Elis are currently in eleventh place in the ECAC, which sends 10 teams to the playoffs. But in the tight ECAC standings the Bulldogs are just two wins away from getting home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
With six games left in the regular season, the Bulldogs are still adjusting to the loss of winger Nick Deschenes ’03, who has been out for the last four games because of a freak accident in practice. Deschenes, who led the team in assists before the injury and was a big presence on the power play, needed 60 stitches for a cut he received when a teammate’s skate went between his pads and sliced his thigh.
The Bulldogs, who are also without defenseman Bryan Freeman ’04 because of a high ankle sprain, have had difficulty finding a way to hold on to close games in the closing minutes. Yale has 11 one-goal losses.
“It’s a huge difference relative to other years cause we don’t have the same numbers we’ve had on rosters in previous years,” winger Spencer Rodgers ’02 said. “It wears us down more and more in practice.”
On offense, center Chris Higgins ’05 has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise for the Bulldogs. Higgins leads the team in scoring and was ECAC offensive player of the week Jan. 13 and rookie of the week Dec. 2. The Elis will need Higgins to continue to find the back of the net if they are to make it into the postseason.
“He’s a huge part of our offense,” winger Nathan Murphy ’04 said. “We’re going to have to get production from his line if we’re going to win.”
With four of the Bulldogs’ next six games at home, the Elis are hoping the home crowd will give them an extra boost in their quest for points.
“Coming off Cornell, you could see how much of a difference the crowd could make,” Hellemeyer said. “It’ll be nice to have that same emotion in our rink. If we’re going to turn it around, I don’t think anyone would want to do it anywhere else but at home.”