The Whale may be cursed this year. After four games and still no wins for the men’s hockey team, the Elis take to the road, looking for a change in scenery to bring a change in luck.
The Bulldogs (0-4, 0-4 ECACHL) will travel to Cambridge Friday to take on archrival No. 19 Harvard (4-2, 3-2). They will continue on to battle Dartmouth (1-4, 1-4) in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday night. Despite their rocky start this year, team members said their performance has improved over the last couple of games, and players are hopeful for better results in the future.
“It’s always disappointing when you don’t jump right out of the box and get a couple of wins,” forward Joe Zappala ’06 said. “But a lot of guys are starting to jump on the bandwagon, and, believe it or not, we can be a good team.”
The Crimson and Big Green will be tough competition for the Elis. Harvard is coming off a big win against No. 6 Boston College, 5-3, on Tuesday night. Historically, the Harvard-Yale matchup has not been in the Bulldogs’ favor. The last six games have been taken by the Crimson. Since the 1899-1900 season, Harvard has beaten Yale 129 times, while the Bulldogs have claimed only 69 wins.
Dartmouth also upset a highly-ranked team, defeating No. 5 Cornell, 6-1, last Saturday with three first-period goals. The upcoming game in Hanover is particularly significant for Yale since last season’s Eli playoff run was stopped short in the first round in three games against the Big Green.
Forward Zach Mayer ’06, who dislocated his shoulder on Saturday and expects to be out for a month, said the Dartmouth game will be the team’s toughest challenge yet.
“If you look at their team, they dominated us last year,” he said. “And they didn’t lose many players off [last year’s] team.”
Despite the challenges this weekend poses, the team has not given up hope.
“They’re two winnable games,” Zappala said.
But if the team wants to exact revenge and come home victorious, they will have to step up their quality of play. Goalkeeper Alec Richards ’09 said inconsistency has plagued the team this year, and players will be directing their energies toward putting together three solid periods this weekend.
“We’ve been playing well when we have our heads screwed on tight,” Zappala said. “But in those minutes where we lose our focus, the other team takes advantage.”
The Bulldogs also need to improve their power plays, which have troubled them in recent games. In their 6-2 loss to Cornell on Nov. 5, the Elis were only able to capitalize on one of seven power plays.
Mayer said power play kill and preventing excessive penalties will both be focuses in the game against Harvard. Yale currently leads the nation with 39.8 penalty minutes per game.
“We need to take less penalties,” he said. “Harvard has one of the best power plays right now.”
The Bulldogs are also missing crucial players due to injury. Forward Brad Mills ’07, last year’s leading scorer, has been unable to play in the last three games. Defenseman Rob Page ’08 has been sidelined all season with a rib injury.
“The defense needs to step it up,” Meyer said. “As long as [Page] is out, it’s going to be tough without our best defenseman.”
But there was a glimmer of hope in one of the Elis’ most recent defeats, a 7-5 loss to St. Lawrence last Friday. Despite the loss, the Bulldogs scored a season-high five goals.
Forward Nate Jackson ’06 has also continued to capitalize for the Bulldogs. Following his one-goal, two-assist performance against St. Lawrence, he leads the Elis with five goals on the season.