In a strange reversal of fortune, a busload of Yalies will head over to Quinnipiac tonight looking to gain some respect.

The men’s hockey team (8-10-3, 5-8-1 ECACHL) will travel crosstown to battle the No. 18 Bobcats (12-8-5, 8-3-4) before facing Princeton (9-10-2, 6-7-1) tomorrow night at Ingalls in a pivotal weekend. Coming off a string of tough losses, most recently to Rensselaer and Union, the Elis need a win to get back on track and prove to the hockey world that they can play to their potential.

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“Going down the home stretch here, we just have to bear down and get some wins,” captain Matt Cohen ’07 said. “We are playing good hockey, but we’re not getting the job done.”

First up for the Bulldogs will be a tough ECACHL game against second-best Quinnipiac. Despite trailing No. 17 St. Lawrence by a point in the league standings, the Bobcats boast the top offense in the conference, with a strong defense and solid special teams play.

Although the Yale-Quinnipiac rivalry has existed at Toad’s for years, the two schools have only come head-to-head on the ice three times. In fact, since Quinnipiac joined the ECACHL in 2005, the Bulldogs have not yet had to travel to the other side of town looking for action. The Elis took a 4-3 victory in their first-ever meeting at Ingalls last year, but the Bobcats went on to win the second, as well the first Yale-Quinnipiac face-off this season. Both of their wins came by a decisive 6-2 margin, proving that Quinnipiac players do know how to score.

But the Elis know that they have the talent to play with the squad, particularly after the Bobcats skated to a 2-2 draw against 10th place Harvard at home on Tuesday.

“I think we are fairly confident, because even though we lost, we played some tough games,” forward Sean Backman ’10 said. “It’s a game of crosstown rivals, so we’re excited for it.”

The Elis will follow the well-trodden bus route from Hamden back to Yale in time for Princeton on Saturday night. In early January, the Bulldogs returned from New Jersey with a victory over the Tigers — the first Yale road win in nearly two months. Princeton, a team that the Bulldogs could ostensibly pass in the conference standings with a win, currently sits just two points ahead of Yale in the ECACHL.

To get a victory, the Elis will have to play a disciplined game and keep clear of the penalty box. The Tigers have one of the lowest penalty averages in the league, while the Bulldogs are the leaders in the category — one of the few where being ahead is a disadvantage. The Elis have fared well in even-strength play recently, but two costly power-play goals last weekend, one by Union and one by RPI, may have made the difference in both games.

The 3-2 loss to Union in an overtime nail-biter should certainly fuel the Elis as they head into the weekend. After falling to an early 1-0 deficit, the Bulldogs rallied back to take a 2-1 lead in the third. But Union capitalized on a one-man advantage to tie the score and got the game-winner on a lucky bounce with just 32 seconds remaining in the extra period. Head Coach Keith Allain ’80 said there was no doubt that the Bulldogs should have gotten the win based on the way they played.

The Elis will look to recreate the intensity and hunger of that game and convert it into a win this weekend. The Bulldogs have just eight league matchups remaining in their final month of regular-season play, so now is the time to draw on everything that they have worked on over the past four months.

“We really came together and put together a full [game] against Union,” Cohen said. “We were working hard — we played with an edge. We need to play like that all the time.”