Last weekend’s sweep at Ingalls Rink was big for the men’s hockey team. But a sweep this weekend against Colgate and No. 8 Cornell would be huge.

The first-place, No. 6 men’s hockey team has two tough tests up ahead this weekend in upstate New York. With only six games remaining in the regular season, Friday’s contest at sixth-place Colgate (11–11–5, 8–6–1 ECAC) and Saturday’s showdown against first-place (Cornell 13–6–3, 10–3–2) will not only have an impact on the ECAC standings, but also on Yale’s national ranking — a significant factor in how at-large spots to the NCAA Tournament are awarded. The winner of the ECAC Tournament earns an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, while other teams must hope to earn at-large bids.

When the Bulldogs (14–6–3, 10–4–2) squared off against the Raiders in November, the Elis outshot Colgate 44–22 but had to fight back from a 3–1 deficit midway through the second period. Yale ended up with a 3–3 overtime tie after left defenseman Tom Dignard ’10 tied things up from the top of the left circle midway through the third period.

Colgate is coming off a 2–0 shutout loss at Quinnipiac.

On Saturday, Yale will go to one of college hockey’s most hostile environments — Cornell’s Lynah Rink.

The Bulldogs have won all four meetings in the past two years against perennial powerhouses Cornell and have not lost at Lynah since 2004.

Right winger Broc Little ’11 attributes the team’s success against the Big Red to the two teams’ different playing styles.

“We’re a smaller group than most teams,” Little said. “Cornell is mostly bigger guys, and we’ve done pretty well against them because of our speed and ability to just dictate the game.”

The Big Red held sole position of first place in the ECAC prior to last weekend’s games, but their 5–3 loss at ninth-place Princeton gave Yale and Union the opportunity to claim a share of the lead.

When the Bulldogs took on Cornell in November, center Brendan Mason ’11 broke a 2–2 tie with less than five minutes left in the game. Yale went on to win 4–2 after an empty-net goal in the final minute.

If the Bulldogs are going to get the results they want, a lot may depend on the man standing in front of the net.

Goaltending has been an issue all season for the Elis. Before last weekend, Nick Maricic ’13 and Jeff Malcolm ’13 had started 17 of the team’s 21 games. Both have save percentages under .900 — goaltender Alec Richards ’09 had a .923 mark last season on his way to All-ECAC recognition. After Maricic allowed two goals to Dartmouth in the first period on Friday, Yale head coach Keith Allain ’80 decided to make an unexpected change by replacing the netminder with Billy Blase ’10.

Blase had only played 12 total minutes this season prior to entering the game, but that is not to say that he is inexperienced.

Two years ago, with Richards injured, Blase started 25 games, playing in more than 70 percent of the season’s minutes. With Richards emerging as the full-time starter in the second half of the season last year, Blase was limited to four starts on the year, playing in about 12 percent of Yale’s minutes.

With Blase graduating at the end of the season, Allain said that giving his freshmen goaltenders experience was never the reason they started ahead of Blase.

Still, Blase did admit to sometimes feeling shortchanged.

“I’m so grateful to be out there, and I want to enjoy every minute of it,” he said. “But I can’t lie — to some degree I’ve been [shortchanged]. I’ve just kept working on it — there’s only so much that I can control.”

Both games will be broadcast on WYBC AM 1340 and streamed on at 7 p.m.