Although the men’s hockey team has two crucial games against league opponents at home this weekend, the Bulldogs’ mentality is that there is only one on the horizon.
“We take it one game at a time,” defenseman Rob Page ’08 said. “Coach [Taylor] hasn’t talked about Harvard this week. He’s trying to put that in our heads.”
The Bulldogs (3-15-1, 2-10 ECAC) are focused on their Friday game versus Brown (9-6-3, 4-5-2). After that, they will be turning to the Saturday game against No. 11 Harvard (10-5-2, 7-4-1). Whether they are thinking about Saturday or not, neither game this weekend is going to be easy.
With the Elis currently at the bottom of the ECAC standings, they need to start picking up some wins during the last 10 competitions of the regular season. With their 6-2 win over UConn last Saturday, they have some confidence about the way their play has improved, winger Joe Zappala ’06 said.
“Every team in the league has league games from here on out and a lot can happen any given weekend,” he said. “We are trying to head in the right direction. These games can put us in a good position.”
The first major hurdle on the Bulldogs’ path to some much-needed victories is the stingy Bear defense led by rookie netminder Adam D’Alba. D’Alba, who has gone 7-2-2 in goal, was recently named the ECAC’s Player of the Week as well as USCHO/ITECH Defensive Player of the Week. He has recorded two shutouts this season, one of which came in the Bears’ 0-0 tie with UMass-Lowell. He ranks first in the nation in save percentage (.946) and third in goals-against-average (1.61).
Center Brad Mills ’07 said he would like to do something to put a dent in D’Alba’s record.
“I’m going to be doing the same thing I have been focusing on — getting pucks through and creating some good chances for my linemates,” said Mills. “Maybe we can rattle [D’Alba’s] confidence early and jump on him early. I think with any team we are playing it’s important to get off to a good start, especially at home. We want to establish some momentum, take advantage of the home crowd, and get them into it early.”
Mills is Yale’s leading points scorer with nine goals and 11 assists. Against UConn, Mills finished with the first hat trick of his career. He said he would like to repeat that performance this weekend.
“I had the same meal tonight [as last weekend],” Mills said. “Hopefully it will work again.”
On the other side of the ice, the Bears will be looking to their best threat, Brian Ihnacak, to put some pucks past Eli goalie Matt Modelski ’07. Ihnacak leads the Bears with nine goals and seven assists and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The key to shutting down Ihnacak and the Bear offense as well as stopping the Cantabs will be buckling down, Page said.
“Both teams have speed, they’re good off the transition game,” Page said. “We have to be ready all the time, play one-versus-one’s well, and not let them get around us.”
While the Bears are fresh from their win over Providence, the Cantabs have not played in 19 days, since before their final exams. The Crimson will face Princeton Friday before coming north to face the Bulldogs at the Whale.
Although the Cantabs are 8-1 at home, they are only 2-3-1 on the road. The Elis are hoping to add another loss to that column by reducing their number of turnovers, Zappala said.
“If we limit turnovers, hopefully we will turn things around this weekend,” Zappala said. “It’s nothing different, [there is no] particular game plan for each game. We know where we are and what we are doing. We’re going to come out playing hard.”
The Elis will have their work cut out for them no matter what happens Friday as they take on a Crimson squad with nine NHL draft picks, including Tom Cavanagh. Cavanagh’s six goals and 11 assists have helped the Cantabs succeed this season.
Even though they may not be the favorites this weekend, the Bulldogs are excited about the two games.
“Practice was really good [Thursday],” Page said. “There was energy there and it was really crisp. All season long we have known we can beat good teams. It’s just a matter of us putting three periods together.”