When the Bulldogs travel to the University of Vermont and Dartmouth this weekend, they will try to right a sinking ship in time to sail into the playoffs.
Yale (6-17-2, 5-11-2 ECAC) is in 11th place in the ECAC with 12 points, five better than cellar dweller Vermont (3-22-2, 3-14-1 ECAC) and 10 points away from the second place Big Green (12-9-4, 9-5-4 ECAC). The Bulldogs will need points this weekend if they are to stay in striking distance of Princeton and St. Lawrence, which are tied for the final playoff spot with 15 points each.
“We don’t need anymore motivation,” men’s ice hockey head coach Tim Taylor said. “We just need to find a way to win.”
Although at first glance the Bulldogs seem to have the advantage over a Catamount squad that has only three wins and two ties this season, one of those ties came in a 4-4 contest Nov. 18 against the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs will also have to cool down the Big Green, who are riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, highlighted by a 1-0 overtime upset of No. 8 Cornell (18-6-1, 14-3-1 ECAC).
Before the Bulldogs can hope for victory this weekend, they will have to overcome a string of injuries and a lack of offensive production. The Elis will be without winger Nick Deschenes ’03 and defenseman Bryan Freeman ’04. Deschenes, who led the team in assists before his injuries, is out for the rest of the season with a leg injury while Freeman will sit out after aggravating a high ankle strain against Union College Feb. 15.
Winger Evan Wax ’03, who had an assist against Union (12-10-6, 7-8-3 ECAC) and a goal against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (14-10-4, 8-7-3 ECAC) last weekend, is probable for this weekend after injuring his ankle at practice Feb. 20.
To combat these problems, Taylor has tried changing the lines, most notably moving captain Luke Earl ’02 to center and Chris Higgins ’05 to wing against Rensselaer Feb. 16.
Earl and Higgins, who lead the team in scoring, will be the focus of Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan’s defensive pairings.
“We know what [Earl and Higgins] are capable of doing,” Gilligan said. “We know we’re still capable of beating anybody, but we’re going to have to contain those two if we’re going to have a shot at winning.”
After a season where defense has been the top priority, the Bulldogs have shifted their focus on the ice.
“We need to get more sustained pressure on the net,” Taylor said.
Indeed, if the Bulldogs are unable to develop any offensive pressure this weekend, they could find themselves pushed out of playoff contention.