Although the men’s hockey team did not play its most impressive hockey last weekend, it is perhaps brimming with even more confidence after defeating ECAC opponents Union and RPI without leading scorer and right winger Sean Backman ’10.
“If anything, it showed our team that with different pieces of the puzzle, we can still battle through and get wins,” captain and right winger Matt Nelson ’09 said. “Most teams would fall through when playing two tough opponents without key guys.”
This weekend, the No. 7 Bulldogs benefit from the return of Backman to the line-up as they face a tough pair of ECAC opponents in their last road weekend of the regular season.
The Elis travel to neighboring Hamden to face Quinnipiac today in what has become an intense rivalry game as of late, and then head to Princeton, N.J., to face the No. 9 Tigers (18-7-0, 12-6-0) Saturday. Princeton currently sit five points behind Yale for first place in conference standings. Both contests start at 7 p.m.
A sweep this weekend would essentially clinch the Cleary Cup — awarded to the team with the best regular season record in the ECAC — for the Bulldogs, since wins are worth two points while ties count for one.
The Tigers and the Bobcats (15-13-2, 8-8-2) will be looking to avenge losses to the Bulldogs less than a month ago at Ingalls Rink. The Elis defeated Princeton, 3-1, Jan. 30 and followed up with a 3-0 win over Quinnipiac the night after.
The latter contest put Yale in a tie for first place in the ECAC with No. 11 Cornell. Another ECAC sweep the following week gave the Elis sole possession of first place — a position Nelson says has done little to affect the team’s mindset.
“Once we got first place, we took a moment, paused, realized how awesome it was and then we started focusing on getting the next win,” he said. “Now, we don’t think about it anymore.”
Besides posting an impressive 10-1 record on the road this season, the Bulldogs’ nine-game unbeaten streak is second in the nation behind No. 1 Boston University, which has not lost in its last 10 contests.
The game will be televised on my9 at 7 p.m.