The men’s ice hockey team played its best period of the season in its final frame against Harvard in a 4-1 loss Nov. 21, but the Elis will need 120 minutes of solid hockey to get two victories this weekend.

After losses to nationally ranked No. 15 Brown (4-1-0 ECAC, 4-1-0) and No. 13 Harvard (2-2-1, 2-2-1) last weekend, the Bulldogs (1-5-0, 1-3-0) need to improve when conference rivals Dartmouth (1-0-3, 2-0-3) and the University of Vermont (0-4-0, 0-7-2) come to Ingalls Rinks tonight and tomorrow night, respectively. Improved and consistent team defense will be essential for success.

In six games this year, Yale has given up an astounding 36 goals, 12 more than the Elis gave up after as many games last season.

“[We’re] not going to win many games giving up goals the way we are,” head coach Tim Taylor said. “We need to have mental toughness and defensive commitment.”

Tonight Yale will have Josh Gartner ’06 between the pipes. Gartner is winless so far this year, but is coming off of a impressive rookie season in which he posted a 2.54 goals against average.

“[The key is] making sure our positioning is good [and] finishing our checks,” Gartner said.

Similarly on offense, the Elis need to improve in a hurry. After averaging nearly four goals per game last year, the Bulldogs are averaging less than two so far this season.

Despite some early season stagnancy on both ends of the ice, the Bulldogs displayed significant improvement in the loss to the Crimson.

“Overall, the whole Harvard game we played pretty well,” said captain Vin Hellemeyer ’04, who scored the Elis’ lone goal in the loss. “We’re pretty happy about the way we finished the game and that we didn’t give up.”

The Bulldogs out-shot the Cantabs 9-7 in the frame and created a slew of scoring opportunities.

“Against Harvard, one of the better defensive teams, they did a good job generating scoring chances.” Taylor said. “In the last period, we possessed [the] puck in the offensive zone and generated scoring chances.”

The power play is another weak spot for the Bulldogs. The Elis are one for 18 with the man advantage for a dismal 5.6 percent.

Taylor addressed special teams in practice this week for nearly an hour, Hellemeyer said.

The Bulldogs employ two power play lines — Ryan Steeves ’04, Christian Jensen ’06, and Joe Zapalla ’06 constitute the first group, while Hellemeyer, Jeff Hristovski ’06 and Zach Mayer ’06 form the second.

Steeves’ group has focused on the overload, playing with two forwards along the boards, attempting to isolate one opposing defenseman in a two-on-one situation.

Hellemeyer’s line practiced the umbrella, spreading shooters around the tops of the circles and along the blue line with one forward in front of the net.

“If you have some big shots on the point, you’ve got to use that strength,” Hellemeyer said.

The power play will need to be good against Dartmouth, who has successfully killed 25 of 28 penalties.

The Big Green, after playing a little bit of musical goaltenders last year, has settled in with Dan Yacey, who earned ECAC Goaltender of the Week honors Nov. 11 for his performance in ties with Brown and Harvard. He gave up three goals on 51 shots.

The Big Green, the only undefeated team in the country, also has a talented first line that includes reigning ECAC Rookie of the Year and 12th overall NHL pick Hugh Jessiman and Lee Stempniak.

“[Tonight’s] game is definitely going to be tough,” he said. “We need to beat one of the top team’s in the league. That will [give] everybody confidence.”

Under the new coaching style of Kevin Sneddon, the Catamounts are still seeking their first win of the season.

University of Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan retired last summer after 19 years at the helm in Burlington. Gilligan served as an assistant coach at Yale under Taylor for two years and as interim head coach for the Bulldogs in 1983-84 while Taylor coached the U.S. Olympic team.

“[The] University of Vermont is adjusting to a new coach, they seem to be giving up a lot of goals, but they have a lot of weapons up front,” Taylor said.

Though UVM is the weaker of the two opponents, the Bulldogs cannot take anyone lightly, Hellemeyer said.

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