With just four games remaining in the regular season schedule, the Yale men’s hockey squad will face a challenging two-game stretch on the road this weekend.
In two contests, the Elis (15–7–3, 10–6–2 ECAC) will battle the cream of the ECAC crop, when they take on first place Quinnipiac (20–8–2, 15–2–1 ECAC), and the conference’s hungry last-place squad, Princeton (4–17–3, 2–14–2 ECAC). With the season coming to a close, and NCAA tournament bids and ECAC hardware still left up for grabs, this weekend carries particular importance for Yale.
The Elis will begin their weekend road trip by taking on the Quinnipiac Bobcats in Hamden during a premier matchup between the ECAC’s first- and third-place squads. Though the Bobcats have a commanding nine-point lead over Yale in the ECAC standings, the Elis can go a long way toward closing that gap with two wins this weekend.
Currently, the Bobcats are streaking through the division. Quinnipiac is riding a four-game win streak and has lost just twice in the division this season. Furthermore, the Bobcats’ Sam Anas is currently fourth in the ECAC with 33 points in 30 games. Given his prominence — in comparison, Yale’s top scorer, forward Mike Doherty ’17, has 18 points in 25 games — Yale will have to contend with a premier offensive threat if they hope to take down Quinnipiac on its home ice.
“At this point in the year every game is a big one and every point could have large implications in the Ivy League and ECAC playoffs coming up,” defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 said. “Sticking to our strong team defense and playing fast with support all over the ice will be vital in taking the four points on the table this weekend.”
While Yale has defended well against star offensive players this season, notably shutting down Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey, the No. 3 point producer in the ECAC, Quinnipiac is an offensive juggernaut that manages 2.8 goals per game, with nine players posting double digit point totals on the season. Furthermore, Anas is not the only standout forward Yale will have to contend with. Matthew Peca sits just three total points behind Anas with 30, and has produced more assists than Yale’s top two providers, John Hayden ’17 and Ryan Hitchcock ’18, combined.
“We’re preparing like any other week for a big week ahead,” Doherty said. “Right now our focus is on Quinnipiac and we can’t wait to get going Friday in a big game.”
Against Princeton, however, Yale is the favored squad. The Elis have 22 points compared to Princeton’s six and posted a dominant 4–0 shutout win over the Tigers in their last matchup. While Yale will have to be careful not to fall into a trap against Princeton, the Elis, given their recent 4–1–1 performance over the last six games, will be a tough team to beat for an overmatched Princeton team.
“Both games this weekend have huge pairwise indications, so we need to be ready to go from the drop of the puck,” forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 said. “As far as the game plan we just need to play a full 60 minutes of Yale Hockey. We need to show our opponents respect but not too much.”
Yale’s final home matchups of the regular season come on the weekend of Feb. 27 against Cornell and Colgate.