If you ask the men’s hockey team, Harvard doesn’t matter either. Because while numerous buses of Yale students will travel to Harvard today for The Game — a name which suggests there is nothing else going on in the world — the hockey team will stay on campus to face ECAC foes Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) (5-5-1, 1-3-0 ECAC) and Union (5-5-0, 4-0-0).

Yale (0-6-0, 0-4-0) lost at Harvard last Friday night despite a sparkling 45-save performance by goalie Josh Gartner ’06, and then lost 5-2 at Brown Saturday. Though Yale failed both times to pick up its first win, players said it marked a positive step forward, as the Bulldogs undeniably made strides in special teams and forechecking in the two road games.

“The energy was really high and we had a really good forecheck and kept it up all game,” center Jean-Francois Boucher ’08 said of the game against Harvard, adding that the forecheck had strong moments against Brown as well.

Rob Page ’08, a highly recruited defenseman who was drafted last June by the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of several Elis to turn in a solid performance last weekend.

“I like him back there,” head coach Tim Taylor said last weekend about the freshman, who already seems to be growing into his role as quarterback of the power play.

Page said he is getting more comfortable in his role on the team.

“It was a rough transition coming in, but day-by-day it’s getting better,” Page said.

No one will deny Page’s self-assessment. With the freshman at the point, the Yale power play is clearly beginning to gel after a rough, early-season adjustment period to the new system. It accounted for all three of the team’s goals against Harvard and Brown, and it will be looking to exploit the porous RPI penalty kill, which ranks ninth out of the 12 ECAC teams. But it is RPI’s power play that generally makes the most noise. Rensselaer has already scored 10 power-play goals in its four conference games, and Union is even better, with a 29.6 power-play efficiency rate in conference play.

Yale knows it cannot afford to take as many penalties as it has so far this season. Spending an average of 23.0 minutes per game in the penalty box, the Elis have not been able to figure out the nuances of the stricter new obstruction rules, and it has cost them dearly.

“The new rules with the new penalties are really hard to work with and it seems like we’re always on the wrong end of it,” Boucher said. “We get the momentum, then we get a penalty. Then we get the momentum again and then we get another penalty. That’s been our biggest problem this year.”

With a view from between the pipes, goalie Matt Modelski ’07 knows that Yale has no chance against teams with potent power plays if it continues to take penalties and lazily kill them.

“This week we’ve been working a lot on our D-zone coverage,” Modelski said. “We’re still having problems picking up guys.”

After continuing to discuss the team’s problems for a few minutes, Modelski cut himself off.

“We need to stop making excuses and go out there and get some W’s this weekend,” he said.

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