Looking to bounce back from a disappointing two-game home opening stretch, the Yale men’s hockey squad will take on Dartmouth and Harvard in a two-game weekend road trip.
With a record of 1–1–2, the Elis have not gotten off to the hot start they had hoped for, earning just one point in two matches when they took on Clarkson and St. Lawrence. With a strong defense and a capable keeper in sophomore standout Alex Lyon ’17, the Elis will seek redemption against their Ivy League opponent Dartmouth (1–1–1) and bitter rival Harvard (2–0–2).
“Our guys will bounce back,” head coach Keith Allain said. “We play in an extremely competitive league and understand there are ups and downs in every hockey season. Our ability to deal with a little adversity early will be important if we hope to compete for championships later on.”
Yale’s first match against Dartmouth will likely prove a difficult contest. Yale went 0–1–1 against the Big Green last year, and many Dartmouth players from their 2013–14 squad are returning this season, including their two top offensive producers Eric Neiley and Brandon McNally, who combined for a total of 50 points last season. Furthermore, Grant Opperman, Dartmouth’s third-highest points contributor from 2013, is entering into his sophomore season, meaning that Dartmouth’s already-effective offensive trio is still in place to face Yale and has had even more time to build further rapport as a unit.
Because both Dartmouth and Yale are coming off of tough losses, the momentum for this match will be neutral, giving no team the advantage of a hot streak to build upon. Furthermore, both teams have struggled to score in recent losses, meaning defense could prove decisive in this Ivy clash.
“These are two huge games for us,” Mike Doherty ’17 said. “These are two Ivy League games that we need to win. We recognize the importance of these early season games, and we need to bounce back from last weekend.”
In their rivalry matchup against Harvard, the Bulldogs are the clear-cut underdog. The Crimson are undefeated this season and have not scored fewer than two goals in any of their contests. Furthermore, Harvard is coming off of a high-scoring 6–3 win versus No. 8 Boston College that should give them momentum entering their match against Yale. Unfortunately for the Elis, Harvard’s momentum — coupled with the challenge of playing a rivalry match in front of an away crowd — means that toppling the Crimson will be a difficult task. However, Yale does have history on its side. Last season, the Bulldogs posted a 4–0–1 score against the Crimson and notched a 5–1 win over them during the Rivalry on Ice in Madison Square Garden.
Though this year’s Yale squad is not 2013’s team, much of their core is in tact and should still prove a challenge for the Crimson. Furthermore, Yale’s one loss this year, which was to St. Lawrence, was one in which the Elis statistically dominated, posting a 32–19 advantage in total shots. Though the Saints got the better of the Elis on that particular night, the Bulldogs dominated play, but just failed to finish — meaning that the 4–0 score is somewhat misleading in regards to the actual tempo of the match. Still, if Yale wins on Harvard’s home ice, it will undoubtedly be considered an upset.
“Playing Harvard is always a special game with a lot of rich tradition,” defender Ryan Obuchowski ’16 said. “It’s always amazing to beat Harvard, especially in their barn, but this will be a battle to the final whistle. In order to beat Harvard, it is going to take a full team effort and 60 minutes of Yale hockey.”
Yale’s next match comes against Cornell on Friday, Nov. 21, in Ithaca, New York.