Riding a two-game winning streak, the Yale men’s hockey team will look to continue their success on home ice this weekend when they face off against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union College.
The matches promise to be challenging. The Bulldogs (5-2-2, 3-2-1 ECAC) will be facing off against a top-five opponent against in RPI (6-9-1, 4-2-0) and the defending national champions, Union (7-6-1, 1-4-1).
“These two games are huge for our team to keep the momentum going into and through Christmas break,” defender Ryan Obuchowski ’16 said. “This year our league is highly competitive, and every game is a must win if we are going to complete our goal to compete for a championship at the end of the season. We are facing two quality opponents this weekend.”
Given the Elis’ recent history against RPI, the Bulldogs will be favored going into their match against the Engineers on Friday. Yale swept RPI last season and has looked dominant in their past two contests, which included a shutout win over Rochester Institute of Technology. Furthermore, RPI is riding a two-game losing streak, courtesy of back-to-back contests against the University of Michigan. Their most recent loss was a 6-0 shellacking by the Wolverines. However, talented athletic outfits like RPI have demonstrated their ability this season bounce back from big, blow out losses. Thus, Yale will have to prepare accordingly in order to prevent a hungry Engineer squad from taking home a win at Ingalls Rink.
Against Union, the past two national champions will feature in what is essentially a do-or-die clash for the Dutchmen. Sitting at 10th place in the ECAC, the Dutchmen need a win against Yale to begin clawing their way back into the top half of the conference. Coming off of a big 6–1 win over Princeton, Union looks to continue the process of ascending in the league with a win against the Bulldogs. However, Yale has reason to be optimistic against the defending champions given the impressive goalkeeping by Patrick Spano ’17 and Alex Lyon ’17. Both netminders have looked dominant between the pipes this season. Furthermore, forward John Hayden ’17 was just selected to the US National Junior Team Camp — one of just 30 players invited to the tryout. This honor marks him as one of the most talented players in the nation.
“These are huge games for us and two wins would put us in a great position,” Hayden said. “ECAC games are always important and the Union game will provide extra motivation considering we lost both games to them last year and they went on to win the title. We need to have a consistent weekend.”
Given that just one point separates the sixth Place Eli squad from second place in the ECAC, Yale will have a little extra motivation this weekend. If Yale can secure two wins and some of the teams ahead of them falter, the Elis could leapfrog a number of squads in the ECAC standings, putting them in a better position to take home a big trophy this season.
“We recognize how huge these games are and the position it would put us in after break if we play well,” Mike Doherty ’17 said. “We’re just working on our systems and on scoring goals. This weekend these games are about us, not about them.”
The Elis’ next ECAC match after this weekend comes against Harvard on Jan. 10 at Madison Square Garden.