In only his second weekend of regular season action, goalie Peter Cohen ’05 will lead the struggling Bulldogs against Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Ingalls Rink this Friday and Saturday.
With six games remaining in the regular season, the 11th-place Elis (6-15-2, 5-9-2 ECAC) desperately need points from this weekend’s contests against Rensselaer (12-10-4, 6-7-3) and Union (11-9-6, 6-7-3) if they are to stay in the running for a spot in the ECAC playoffs. The top 10 teams in the ECAC will advance to the postseason.
Cohen, who replaces regular starter Dan Lombard ’02 in net, last played for the Bulldogs Jan. 20 in a game against Ohio State (14-12-4). At the time, the Buckeyes were No. 13 in the country, but the Bulldogs triumphed 6-2 as Cohen stopped 30 of 32 shots.
Yale has not won a game since the Ohio State contest.
Head coach Tim Taylor announced the switch Thursday at practice. Although Lombard is healthy, Taylor decided to rest the Bulldog goalie, who leads conference goaltenders in minutes played with over 960.
“I don’t think that’s going to change anything,” winger Denis Nam ’03 said. “We have a lot of confidence in Pete, as we do in Dan.”
Yale’s defense will receive a boost with the return of starting defenseman Bryan Freeman ’04, who has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain.
Four other Eli starters have been nursing injuries this week — including captain Luke Earl ’02, winger Spencer Rodgers ’02, and defensemen Mike Grobe ’05 and Stacey Bauman ’03 — so the Bulldogs’ practices have been lighter than normal.
The Elis will be challenged on both ends of the ice this weekend, as Union’s defense is the second best in the ECAC, while RPI has a tandem of conference-leading point scorers, center Marc Cavosie and winger Matt Murley.
Even with the tasks of solving a tough Dutchmen defense and cooling off an Engineer squad that is fresh off a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Clarkson (11-11-6, 7-4-5), the Bulldogs’ first concerns lie elsewhere.
“It comes down to us playing our game,” winger Evan Wax ’03 said. “I think we have to focus more on our game than the teams we’re playing against.”
After losing 10 of their last 12 games, this week’s light practices might have been exactly what a lagging Bulldog squad needed.
“The drain of this season has been immense,” Taylor said. “This week provided a good rest mentally and physically for those kids who are worn to a frazzle.”
Against Union, whom the Elis trounced 5-2 in their last meeting Dec. 8, the Bulldogs will look to get shots early and often on goaltender Brandon Snee.
“Union plays very well with a lead,” Taylor said. “We need to jump on them early.”
For Rensselaer, Cavosie and Murley will occupy most of the Bulldogs’ time on defense. The tandem is averaging over 1.5 points a game, but Taylor expects his lines to slow the efforts of the Engineer duo.
“We have got to finish our checks and make sure we shut them down,” Taylor said.
In the Bulldogs’ last meeting with Rensselaer Dec. 7, the Engineers came out on top, 4-2, without Murley in the lineup.
With four of their last six games at home, the Elis hope home ice will work to their advantage.
“It’s great. The fan support will be huge,” Wax said. “It helped the basketball team last weekend, and we’re hoping it will give us a little extra push to be at home.”
Despite their slump, the Bulldogs have not lost their swagger.
“This season is in our own hands,” Nam said. “We can still decide where we’re going to go and what we’re going to do.”
The Bulldogs will need their best, not just for this game, but for the rest of the regular season if they want a piece of postseason play.