After two games on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 against then-No. 2 North Dakota — the current top team in the country — and a game against No. 11 defending ECAC champion Cornell last Saturday, the men’s hockey team could use a breather. But the Elis will not find a break in their matchups this weekend.
The Bulldogs (1-3-0, 1-1-0 ECAC) will hit the road to face Brown (2-1-0, 2-1-0) tonight and No. 12 Harvard (1-1-1, 1-1-1) tomorrow evening. The Elis will try to build off the momentum of a 3-2 overtime win against Colgate (3-2-1, 1-1-0) on Nov. 8, but will have tough opponents to contend with. The Crimson were the consensus preseason pick to win the ECAC championship while the Bears are currently tied for the conference lead.
At Meehan Auditorium in Providence tonight, the Bulldogs will attempt to exact some revenge on the Bears, who bounced Yale from the ECAC quarterfinals last March in three games.
“They’re a pretty good team,” captain Vin Hellemeyer ’04 said. “We definitely would like to get a little revenge.”
The Elis should also remember that Yann Danis, arguably the best goalie in the ECAC, will be between the pipes for the Bears. This second team All-ECAC netminder held Yale to five goals in the three playoff games.
“[As a goalie], it really challenges you to bring your A-game,” Josh Gartner ’06 said. “It’s good motivation as a goaltender.”
Brown is coming off its most successful season since 1994.
“They’re going to be playing with a certain amount of swagger, but sometimes that can be to your advantage,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said.
Things will not get any easier on Saturday night when Taylor takes his squad to his alma mater in Cambridge, Mass. Harvard is coming off of a 2-2 tie with Dartmouth on Nov. 7.
Harvard has several offensive threats, including forwards Tim Petit, Tyler Kolarik, Tom Cavanagh, and defenseman Noah Welch. These four were among the Crimson’s six leading scorers last season.
“[Harvard is] definitely one of the more offensively talented teams in the league, but they have trouble spreading the puck around,” Gartner said.
The Crimson’s situation contrasts with Yale’s. The Elis graduated three senior lettermen on defense and the team’s second leading scorer Evan Wax ’03 last year. In addition, ECAC Co-Player of the Year Chris Higgins ’06 left the team to play professional hockey.
“We’re playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores in key roles,” Taylor said. “There’s going to be a learning curve. We haven’t established our identity yet.”
After giving up six goals against the Big Red on Nov. 6 and relinquishing a two-goal lead the ensuing night against Colgate, team defense has been the focus of practices this week.
Yale was sharper against the Red Raiders and also benefited from an impressive debut from rookie goalie Matt Modelski ’07, who made 41 saves en route to earning ECAC Rookie of the Week honors.
Returning starters Gartner and Peter Cohen ’05 have also played in net this season.
The team has yet to be informed of the starting goalie for tonight’s game, Hellemeyer said.
“At this time of the year, it’s going to be a week-to-week decision,” Taylor said.
On offense, the Bulldogs will need to generate more opportunities. They were outshot in both games last weekend at Ingalls Rink, but Taylor is confident that the offense will eventually develop along with team chemistry.
“It’s still early in the season,” Hellemeyer said. “The more you play with people, the more comfortable you feel with them.”
Playing good defense will also create more offensive opportunities.
“If the offense isn’t there, we’re going to play defense,” he said. “We’ve got to be stingy, take the body more [and] be a little bit more of a physical team.”
Yale’s team is smaller in size than most teams it will face, but that should not stop it from playing physically.
“It’s going to be like that with most teams,” Hellemeyer said. “We’re just as strong as any team. Just ’cause we’re a little smaller, doesn’t mean we should get pushed around.”