Both times the men’s hockey team has lost a hockey game this season, it has come on the road against a sub-.500 team that was able to stage a third period comeback. Following the first loss, a November game at Air Force, the Elis reeled off 10 consecutive wins.
They didn’t lose again until last Sunday, when Brown rallied in the third period to overcome a 2–1 deficit.
“We have to take advantage of [the loss],” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said in a press release Sunday. “You are not going to go through a season and not get a loss in the league. If it wakes us up a little, it may be good.”
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The Bulldogs will try to start another winning streak this weekend when they host Clarkson and Saint Lawrence. The Golden Knights (5–3–1, 11–8–2 ECAC) and Saints (3–6, 7–10–4) rank sixth and 10th in the ECAC, respectively. No. 1 Yale, (9–1, 15–2) which retained its top national ranking despite last week’s loss, sits comfortably at first place in the conference.
The Elis boast a far more impressive record than either opponent, but members of the team have said all season that they know they play with targets on their backs. Each opponent is eager to knock down the top team in the country. Clarkson especially might be looking for revenge.
The Golden Knights struggled all of last year, and finished with a meager nine wins to accompany their 24 losses. They were the last-place team in the ECAC when they arrived in New Haven to take on a vaunted, nationally ranked Yale team.
But in front of a cheering, blue-and-white crowd, the last place Golden Knights skated to a 4–1 lead, which they held with fewer than eight minutes left on the clock. Then Yale came to life, and erupted for three goals in just 51 seconds. Broc Little ’11, sealed Clarkson’s fate with an overtime goal, his third of the game. The game was exciting, but this year’s team is looking forward, not back, according to captain Jimmy Martin ’11.
“That was last season,” he said. “This is just another game.”
Yale won the two teams’ other meeting last year, again by a single goal. This time, they will face a much-improved Golden Knight squad.
Behind a combined team effort headlined by forward Brandon DeFazio, whose 18 points make him the team’s leading marksman — but would leave him sixth on Yale — Clarkson owns a winning record so far this season, though it has faced a slew of powerhouse teams. Every team the Golden Knights have faced since the new year has been nationally ranked. And although the team dropped two home games to No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth and an 8–1 humiliation at the hands of No. 12/10 Union, they squeaked out a victory over No. 13/14 Rensselaer Polytechnic.
The last of those games was two weeks ago, and Clarkson has not played since. Skating on fresh legs; seasoned by strong competition; and with the Paul Karpowich, the goalie who surrendered that flurry of third-period goals last year, expected to start in net eager for revenge, the Golden Knights will arrive in New Haven with high hopes of handing Yale its first losing streak of the year.
Saint Lawrence’s play so far this season suggests that it will not pose as much of a threat. The team is in rebuilding mode, and led by a pair of freshmen: Forward Greg Carey has 24 points and Matt Weninger boasts a .916 save percentage. The pair of young standouts has not been able to carry the team on its own, however, and the Saints have struggled to put together a sustained winning streak.
Allain is likely to send out the same lineup that skated against Brown this weekend. Although Brian O’Neill ’12 — who mans the right wing on the top-scoring Eli line alongside Andrew Miller ’13 and Chris Cahill ’11 — needed some treatment on his leg after Saturday’s home game versus Brown, he was back on the ice the next day. The rest of Yale’s injuries carry over from previous weeks: Jeff Anderson ’11 remains on crutches with an undisclosed injury to his right leg and Jesse Root ’14 is again expected not to play after sustaining a reported concussion against Harvard two weeks ago.
The lineup is the same, but the mentality on the team has changed slightly, according to Martin. During the winning streak that ended on Sunday, it was difficult to complain about how the team was playing or to make big improvements, he said. But the loss to Brown exposed some problems with the team’s game.
“All five guys just weren’t working together,” he said. “We got some great individual efforts, but the team wasn’t clicking like it should. The feeling is let’s get back to work. We learned the lesson that if we’re not at our best, we’re not going to win.”
The puck drops Friday night at 7 p.m. for the game against Clarkson, and the same time Saturday as Yale battles Saint Lawrence.