The men’s hockey team is off to a hot start this season, yet they sit in sixth place in their division. The reason – despite a 3-1 record in the ECAC, Yale (6-2, 3-1) has not had the opportunity to prove themselves much in conference play so far.

This weekend, the Bulldogs will have an opportunity to make up ground in the ECAC as they welcome a pair of struggling conference rivals. They face Rensselaer (2-10-1, 1-4-1) on Friday and Union (6-4-1, 1-3-0) on Saturday at Ingalls Rink. Both games start at 7 p.m.

Yet, according to head coach Keith Allain, the team’s day-to-day improvement is more important than its position in conference standings. Allain sees this weekend’s two contests as an important step on the way to having the opportunity to compete for the ECAC championship come playoff time.

RPI will look to get its offense on track — the aptly named Engineers have only scored 17 goals so far this season. The Bulldogs, in comparison, have already scored 26 times in five fewer games.

Union’s problem is not if they score, but when they score. They have outscored opponents by nine in the second period, but have been outscored by the same margin in the first frame.

Allain acknowledged in a press release that Union and RPI’s different playing styles will present a unique challenge to the team each night this weekend.

According to right winger Chris Cahill ’10, the varying styles of play help Yale stick to their own game.

“Union plays a little more of a conservative game, whereas RPI is more of a go-go team,” he said. “That helps us … because it forces us to stick to our game plan and focus on ourselves.”

Union is coming off two wins at home, while RPI has lost their last five games. Their last victory came against Harvard back in early November. The streaking Elis have won five of their last six.