After two tough one-goal losses last weekend, the Yale men’s ice hockey team is looking to rebound against two competitors that run the gamut of the ECAC standings.
On Friday night, the Bulldogs face off against last-place Princeton at home before taking on conference leaders and rival Quinnipiac the following evening. The games kick off a four-game homestand for Yale, its final home contests until the final regular season games of the year.
“With last weekend, we need to have a positive response moving forward,” captain Tommy Fallen ’15 said. “The team’s focus is to get back to our structure and play with confidence … This weekend is another chance to respond after some adversity.”
As Fallen noted, the upcoming four-game home stretch is especially crucial for an Eli squad looking to remain in contention for both an ECAC or Ivy championship. Before dropping their last two games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson, the Bulldogs had won six of their previous seven games. Now, Yale (11–6–2, 6–5–1 ECAC) stands at seventh place in the conference, seven points back from the neighboring Bobcats (15–8–1, 10–2–0).
Yale also currently sits in 16th place in the PairWise rankings, which are used to determine the NCAA Tournament field. Only 16 teams qualify, meaning that the Bulldogs currently sit squarely on the bubble.
The only previous meeting this season with the Tigers (3–14–1, 1–11–0) took place in October, when a shootout goal from forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 carried Yale into the finals at the Liberty Hockey Invitational before the team won it all against the University of Connecticut. After the team’s only conference win against Cornell early in the season, it has been all downhill for Princeton in ECAC play. While Yale has won seven of the last eight games against the Tigers, the win is not entirely in the bag for the Bulldogs. Princeton is coming off of the momentum of a non-conference win against Army on Wednesday, with forwards Jonathan Liau and Ben Foster leading the Tigers with three goals each thus far.
In particular, Yale will have to ramp up its production on offense if the team hopes to come away with four points this weekend. While the team has the best goals-against average in Division I hockey, at 1.58, and the third-ranked netminder in the country in Alex Lyon ’17, the team has had a difficult time finding the back of the net when it matters most. The team has gone 0–5 on power plays in its last two games. And with less than a month to go in the regular season, the team sits in the bottom third of Division I with 2.37 goals per game on average.
Forward Henry Hart ’18 emphasized that the team has concentrated on converting scoring opportunities this week.
“The team’s focus is just continuing to play good defense as well as bearing down and capitalizing on our scoring chances,” Hart said.
The competition will almost certainly be tougher on Saturday night when Yale takes on Quinnipiac in their first matchup of the season. The rivals down the road have performed well throughout the season and sit alone atop the conference with 20 points, two ahead of second-place Harvard. The Bobcats knocked the Elis out of contention for the ECAC title during last year’s quarterfinals and the Bulldogs have not bested Quinnipiac since their win in the 2013 national championship game. The Bobcat offense is powered by forward Sam Anas, who currently leads the country in power play goals with eight, while goalie Michael Garteig is tied for first in the nation with four shutouts.
Even though the approach to both teams may differ slightly between Friday and Saturday night, defender Rob O’Gara ’16 noted that the team will be primarily focused on executing its own style of play.
“We need to continue skating and keep our work ethic up and really bear down on all of the opportunities we get to score,” O’Gara said. “Sticking to our habits and our Yale hockey style of play will allow for these things to happen.”
Both games will be broadcast on the Ivy League Digital Network. Saturday night’s game at Ingalls Rink has already sold out.
The puck drops for both games at 7 p.m. at Ingalls on Friday and Saturday.