Pride, a sixth-place finish and home ice for the playoffs are all on the line for the men’s hockey team this weekend.
After being swept by Union (13-16-3, 6-13-1 ECACHL) and Rensselaer (9-15-8, 5-10-5) at Ingalls Rink in January, the Bulldogs (10-14-3, 7-12-1) will look to reverse their fortune as they hit the road for their last campaign of the regular season. With two wins, the Elis could end up in as high as sixth place in the conference and would likely guarantee the familiar setting of the Whale for the first round of the ECACHL playoffs the following weekend.
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And the opportunity could not have come at a better time, since the Bulldogs head to upstate New York fresh off one of their best weekends of the season. Although the Elis lost to a hot Dartmouth squad Sunday afternoon, they decimated Harvard, 5-1, on Friday and played with tenacity in both games.
“We just have to keep the momentum going,” forward Mark Arcobello ’10 said. “We played great [last] weekend, so we’re feeling pretty confident.”
In fact, the narrow 3-2 loss to the Big Green was one of the Elis’ best outings of the season. The notoriously penalty-plagued squad took just one the entire game and fired off a season-high 53 shots at Dartmouth goalie Mike Devine. The decision came down to the wire, as the Elis kept the pressure on the Big Green up until the final moments of regulation, going on the power play for the last minute and a half of the game.
“We played the way we needed to play to get the win,” head coach Keith Allain said. “There are so many positives to look at.”
The Elis will look to recreate that energy as they face off against a Union squad that has gone winless in its last six games. In fact, the Dutchmen’s last victory came against Yale in a 3-2 overtime battle at Ingalls. And the night is likely to be a long one for both sides, as the two teams have gone into extra minutes in their last four meetings.
Although the Bulldogs are stronger than the Dutchmen in offensive categories, they cannot overlook the Union forward line. Senior Olivier Bouchard, who single-handedly turned the first Yale-Union game around with two goals, including the overtime game-winner, will be a threat to Eli blueliners, as will teammates T.J. Fox and Josh Coyle.
The Engineers have also won just one of their last six games, although they did manage to eke out a tie against powerhouse No. 6 Clarkson last Saturday night. Sophomore netminder Mathias Lange, who has started the majority of this season, managed to go shot-for-shot with the Golden Knights’ David Leggio, the top goaltender in the conference, as each had 29 stops in the 3-3 draw.
And since either Yale, travel partner Brown, RPI or Union will end up in the bottom spot in the league after this weekend, the Elis will be fighting hard to prove wrong the critics that picked them to take 12th in preseason polls. The Bulldogs currently sit in a ninth-place tie with the Engineers with 15 points apiece, and could finish anywhere from sixth place to dead last.
And recently, the young Elis have shown the maturity of a team that is capable of finishing the season strong. Although the squad still leads the conference in penalty minutes per game, they showed tremendous improvement in all aspects of their special teams play last weekend. The Bulldogs spent just 20 minutes in the box the entire weekend, far less than their per-game average earlier in the season, and subdued the Crimson and the Big Green on all 10 of their power play opportunities.
“We were a lot better on the power play [last] weekend, especially penalty killing,” Arcobello said. “We took a lot less penalties too. It’s something that we just have to keep making better.”
Goalie Alec Richards ’09 also proved that he could hold his own in both games, particularly in Sunday’s battle of the goaltenders against Devine, one of the most seasoned goalies in the league. He finished the weekend with 55 saves and has improved his save percentage to .895.
“He made a lot of great saves and gave us a chance to win both nights,” forward Greg Beller ’10 said. “His play really stood out.”
As the regular season winds to a close, the Elis know that they have the skill to get a victory — it will just be a matter of recreating the winning combinations from last weekend that will determine how they fare in their final test.
“I think by now our guys understand what we need to do to be successful,” Allain said.