Few would be willing to make a winter trip to upstate New York even once, but the men’s hockey team heads north this weekend for the second time in a month.
The Elis (9-11-3, 6-9-1 ECACHL) will meet ranked opponents No. 16 St. Lawrence (15-11-2, 11-4-1) and No. 10 Clarkson (17-7-4, 9-4-3) in one of their biggest remaining regular-season tests. Just two wins out of fourth place, the Bulldogs will be looking to secure an all-important top four finish — which would give them a much-needed first round bye in the ECACHL playoffs — and to re-establish their role as one of the stronger teams in the conference.
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“We still feel like we can be a top team in the league,” forward David Germain ’08 said. “The win against Princeton really helped us start feeling good about ourselves. Hopefully we can take that positive energy into this weekend and get two wins.”
The past weekend certainly highlighted the squad’s ability to succeed in the face of adversity. The Elis delivered a dominant 6-3 win over Princeton on Saturday night, just 24 hours after falling to No. 19 Quinnipiac in a 6-4 heartbreaker in their first-ever contest in Hamden.
“I was really pleased to see the team respond on Saturday night after a disappointing performance on Friday,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “Our team play was fantastic, and that is what we will need heading into a very challenging weekend. On Saturday we used our speed, we moved the puck extremely well, our defense in the neutral zone was very good and we played a physical game. These are traits we need to establish in every game we play.”
The Elis will need to be on their toes to get a road win against either the Saints or the Golden Knights, the first- and third-place teams in the league, respectively. The only team in the conference ahead of the two in offensive categories is Quinnipiac, a squad that tallied 12 goals — half of them on the power play — against the Bulldogs this season.
The last time Yale beat either squad was in early 2005, with Matt Modelski ’07 in goal for both victories. The Bulldogs fell out of the national rankings this December after both SLU and Clarkson defeated them by three-point margins at Ingalls.
“I don’t think we played the way we should have in both of our games against them at home, and we have something to make up for,” defenseman Ryan Donald ’10 said.
This time around, the Elis are coming off a weekend in which they had a season-high number of goals and stopped shots. The Bulldogs lit the lamp 10 times against Princeton and Quinnipiac, while goalies Alec Richards ’09 and Modelski were busy on the other end of the ice with 35 and 32 saves, respectively. The two netminders allowed their opponents just one even-strength goal the entire weekend.
“Al played really well Friday night — he made a number of saves that were really important and kept us in the game early on,” Donald said. “[Modelski] also played great, and he definitely held us in when we needed him to in the third period, when they got a lot more shots on goal.”
The squad has recently benefitted from strong performances by its rookies as well. Forwards Sean Backman ’10, Mark Arcobello ’10 and Chris Cahill ’10 combined for eight goals and five assists against Quinnipiac and Princeton, nearly two-thirds of the Elis’ total offensive output.
Backman was named both ECACHL Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week for his five-goal weekend, which included a hat trick in Hamden. He is currently 17th in the NCAA with 16 goals and third among rookies, just two points behind the leader. Arcobello has added nine goals of his own and leads the team in assists with 12, while Cahill is fifth in points.
“That freshman line is playing really well right now,” Germain said. “Those guys have had a great couple of games.”
But with the ECACHL playoffs in sight, it will take a consistent effort from all of the Bulldog lines to finish the season strong. Allain said that he believes his players will respond well to the challenge in the upcoming contests.
“I think the spark will be there because we re-established some confidence with our play against Princeton,” he said. “We are heading into a very exciting part of the season.”