Following Saturday night’s 4-3 victory over the University of Connecticut, Yale men’s hockey coach Tim Taylor outlined several positives: the win extended Yale’s winning streak to three games, all out of conference, giving the Bulldogs a final nonconference mark of 4-3, an important accomplishment both for Yale and the ECAC. Taylor did stress a need to tighten the team’s defense for the upcoming 10-game conference stretch to close out the regular season, so the win was not perfect on all fronts. But perhaps most importantly, the game marked the Elis’ third one-goal victory of the season, compared to only one loss by that margin.
Fans of Yale hockey need not be reminded of the Bulldogs’ record in one-goal games last winter, when opponents won 11 of 12 such regular-season affairs. Tack on a 2-1 loss at Cornell in the first game of the ECAC playoffs and Yale certainly endured more than its fair share of tough losses. Following a midseason six-game losing skid last winter, the Bulldogs rattled off four consecutive victories to close out the regular season and clinch the final ECAC playoff spot. At the time, many an Eli skater said that it was in part because of being on the wrong end of so many of those scores and still managing to play at a high-intensity level that the four-game winning streak occurred. The tough losses were not forgotten, but rather served as an example of the need to show up to play hard each night.
Saturday night’s win over the Huskies was far from a perfect effort on the part of Yale, but it was a win. And, while the Elis are still committed to enhancing their on-ice product, this year’s version of the Bulldogs will gladly take less-than-perfect wins in favor of some of last winter’s losses where they did seemingly everything right except net a game-tying or winning puck.
Taylor often breaks down a game based on who wins battles for loose pucks. There are a certain number of pucks that each team should clearly control, but then there are those “50-50” pucks that could go either way. The team that works harder to win the “50-50” battle usually wins the game. Extending that analysis, the teams that over the course of a season win the games that could go either way will end up on top of the conference. At 11-8 overall and 7-5 in the ECAC, Yale has hardly dominated its schedule. But the Bulldogs have shown a fairly consistent ability to do what it takes to win when in position to do so.
In the early stages of this season, there was a stretch of about three games when Yale responded to nearly every opponent goal with a score of its own within the subsequent one or two shifts, a sign of the squad’s resiliency. The Bulldogs have performed best in the crucial third period, especially in conference action. In 12 ECAC games, Yale has scored 25 goals in the final stanza, compared to 16 for their opponents, the team’s best period differential.
So while the Bulldogs might still need to get all cylinders firing at the same time, as Evan Wax ’03 said following his four-goal performance against the Huskies, the team already possesses one of the most important characteristics of a winner — the ability to come out on top in those nerve-wracking, nail-biting, one-goal games.