Six players short and six hours away, the men’s hockey team faces quite a challenge this weekend.

In its ECAC-opening weekend of play, the Bulldogs (0-1) travel north to nationally ranked No. 8 Cornell Friday night before taking on Colgate on Saturday.

As luck and scheduling would have it, the team will play one of the perennial ECAC favorites with a depleted lineup.

Forwards Chris Higgins ’05, Nick Deschenes ’03, and Evan Wax ’03 and defenseman Stacey Bauman ’03 will all be serving one-game suspensions for their fighting penalties and game disqualifications in last week’s 7-3 loss to nationally ranked No. 5 North Dakota.

“We know we can still come out of Friday night with a win,” forward Vin Hellemeyer ’04 said. “It is obviously going to be a little tougher to play without some of the guys who are regulars in the lineup, but I don’t think we have to prepare any differently than we usually do for a game.”

The Bulldogs had hoped the ECAC would overturn the penalties assessed to Yale players who did not punch in the North Dakota altercation. Traditionally, fighting penalties are assessed to players who throw a punch.

But the league may add extra penalties following a game and “may not decrease any penalties assessed before, during or after the game by the on-ice officials,” according to the NCAA collegiate men’s ice hockey rulebook.

“In the ref’s judgement, what happened out there warranted the disqualification,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “The commissioner of the league asked if the ref had made the decisions based on his good judgement, and he said yes, so that was the end of our inquiry.”

In addition, forwards Mike Klema ’04 and Nate Murphy ’04, likely will miss the weekend with injuries.

Cornell, the media’s preseason ECAC favorite, boasts an impressive lineup that includes sophomore forward Mike Knoepfli, named to the ECAC Honor Roll last week for his two goals against Ohio State in the Big Red’s season-opening 3-1 victory.

Captain Doug Murray, who was a Hobey Baker Award finalist last season, is arguably Cornell’s top player. He received first-team All-American recognition last year.

Murray’s size and presence on the ice will be a major factor, as two of Yale’s bigger players, Deschenes and Bauman, cannot play.

In addition, Cornell goaltender Dave LeNeveu, while just a sophomore, is coming off a huge rookie season. LeNeveu was the top goalie in the nation in average goals against (1.50) and fourth in save percentage (.936).

Yale will look for its freshmen to step up and fill in the gaps.

Saturday, it will be Colgate with the bad luck. The Raiders will face an Eli team with the four suspended players back in the lineup. As Saturday’s game is an afternoon contest after, the return of four players with fresh legs will be crucial.

“As luck would have it, we get the Saturday game with all those players back,” Colgate head coach Don Vaughan said. “Obviously, they’re going to be rested, and they’re great players, and you would think it would play a little more to their advantage, but we have to concern ourselves with our game no matter who their opponents are.”

After having won three straight games, the Raiders finally fell 6-2 to Ohio State. But senior Scooter Smith, who scored in the loss, continued his fine play for Colgate. Vaughan described Smith as a player who had been nagged by injuries throughout his career, but said that he has really stepped it up this season.

Juniors Paul Kelley and Kyle Doyle also have impressive statistics under their belts, and Kelley has performed well against the Bulldogs in the past.

In goal, the Raiders have a similar situation as the Bulldogs. Both teams graduated their starting goalies last spring and have been testing out several players.

Despite the dearth of players, the Bulldogs hope to maintain a positive outlook and play with confidence.

“Our players give their best effort in every game no matter what the situation is,” Hellemeyer said. “If we focus on playing the same way we did in the first two periods against North Dakota, I think we will be a very difficult team to beat.”