With just eight conference matchups left in their regular season slate, the Yale Bulldogs face two critical opponents this coming weekend. The men’s hockey squad will square off against their bitter rivals, the Harvard Crimson, and the No. 8 team in the ECAC, the Dartmouth Big Green.
Yale, the fourth-ranked team in the ECAC, sits just two points below Harvard’s third-place spot, and the Elis will have an opportunity to leapfrog the Crimson with strong play. However, if Yale falters this weekend, the eighth-place Big Green are just two points behind the Bulldogs, raising the stakes in Yale’s penultimate two-game stretch at Ingalls rink this season.
“It’s always a privilege to step onto the ice at Ingalls but even more so when you have two huge Ivy League games in a weekend,” forward Frank DiChiara ’17 said. “Playing a top ranked opponent like Harvard will be a huge test for us. Even though we’ve had some success against them we need to prepare for it just like we would any other game.”
Against Harvard, the Elis have achieved sterling results this season. Yale has won both matches against their Ancient Eight rivals, an away contest in Cambridge and the annual Rivalry on Ice hosted at Madison Square Garden. The Elis’ strong, imposing defense has managed to stymie Harvard’s normally dynamic offense all year, limiting the Crimson to two goals in two games while producing six scores offensively.
Unfortunately for the Elis, Harvard’s star forward, Jimmy Vesey is producing points at a blistering pace, having notched 18 goals and 16 assists in just 20 games. Shutting down Vesey will be key for Yale to apply their typical brand of punishing defense, especially given that Vesey and the Crimson offense have had two previous opportunities to modify their scoring strategy against the Bulldogs this season. However, given Yale’s recent track record against Harvard, the Bulldogs are slight favorites to win this Ivy League standoff.
Dartmouth has been enjoying consistent play lately, producing three straight close wins over ECAC opponents, including the defending national champions, Union College. Though the Big Green sit in eighth place, their table position is a poor reflection of the team’s strength relative to top-ranked ECAC talent, given how few points separate Dartmouth from the conference’s leading squads. In a highly competitive ECAC, teams like the Big Green cannot be overlooked, even by top-ranked teams. Dartmouth’s dynamic offensive trio of Eric Neiley, Eric Robinson and Tyler Sikura will test the Eli defense. The three forwards have combined efforts for 52 points over the course of 21 games, and all have reached double-digit assist statistics, meaning that any of these three could prove decisive in the matchup against Yale.
“The boys are excited and ready to go,” Mike Doherty ’17 said. “It’s another opportunity for us to get better as we face two big Ivy League and ECAC games. We’re looking forward to playing our game and preparing the way we always do.
Goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 echoed Doherty’s view that the team is preparing the way they always do. The star netminder stated that this weekend is just another one for the team to “get business done.”
This weekend is Yale’s last home stretch until the weekend of Feb. 27, when the Elis take on Colgate and Cornell.