The real season begins tonight.
The men’s hockey team will open ECAC postseason play this weekend at Ingalls Rink. The seventh seed Bulldogs (12-17-0, 10-12-0 ECAC), who dropped the last five contests of the regular season, hope to get back on the winning track when they host tenth seed St. Lawrence (11-19-6, 7-12-3) in a best-of-three series.
“We do realize that we are starting a second season this Friday with the playoffs. We will be excited to enter that challenge,” Yale head coach Tim Taylor said. “All the wins and the losses, all that has flowed under the bridge to this point doesn’t make any difference now. We just have to win our games and advance and I think our kids our excited by that challenge.”
As all 12 ECAC teams participate in the playoffs, the championship is anyone’s for the taking. Yale is particularly thankful to start over with a clean slate after a rough final month of the regular season that saw it drop from third to eighth in the conference standings.
Having only captured one victory in the month of February, the Bulldogs are searching for confidence for the postseason.
“We had a bunch of team meetings and got back on track,” defenseman Joe Callahan ’05 said. “I think we are going into the weekend with some confidence that we haven’t had the last couple weeks.”
The Elis know they can beat the St. Lawrence Saints, but the regular season also proved that it will be no easy task.
“The games were extremely close so I don’t think there is any magic to the match up with St. Lawrence,” Taylor said. “They are a very good team, they have some goaltending, and their power play is working, especially in the second game against them up there. So, we should be taking from those two wins the confidence that we know we beat them in our two previous meetings.”
In the teams’ first contest Jan. 10, Yale edged out the Saints 4-3 in overtime. While captain Vin Hellemeyer ’04 scored the opening goal early in the game, St. Lawrence responded with two tallies in the second to take a 2-1 lead into the final frame.
After forward Christian Jensen ’06 tied the game early in the third, the Saints regained the upper hand just over a minute later. It took a second goal from Hellemeyer to send the game into overtime where Joe Zappala ’06 scored with only 24 seconds remaining to clinch the Eli victory.
The second meeting between the two teams Jan. 30 featured a clash of special teams. With three power play goals and one at even strength, the Bulldogs found themselves ahead 5-1 early in the third. St. Lawrence came storming back with three goals in the third to pull within one, but time ran out for the Saints and the Elis killed countless penalties to squeeze out a 5-4 win.
“We worked on the power play and the penalty kill a lot [on Thursday],” Hellemeyer said. “The last time we played them, the penalty kill was a huge part to why we won that game in the third period. I think those things are going to be key components this weekend as well.”
Though only posting a 2-4-2 record in February, St. Lawrence has been solid defensively with the help of goalie Mike McKenna, who has come on strong in the second half of the season.
Offensively, the Saints boast one of the ECAC’s strongest top lines in the trio of Rick Peverly, T.J. Trevelyan, and John Zeiler. Each player has amassed over 30 points this season, and Trevelyan leads the nation in power play goals, is seventh in goals and is 17th in points.
If Yale is able to stop the powerful Saints’ offense, regain its scoring knack and defeat St. Lawrence twice this weekend, it will move on to face either Cornell, Brown or Dartmouth, all of whom have first round byes.
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