The fate of the Yale men’s ice hockey team rests in its own hands this weekend as they look to clinch both a bye in the opening round of this year’s ECAC tournament and potentially the Ivy League title.
On Friday night, Yale (16–7–4, 11–6–3 ECAC) will take on Colgate (18–11–3, 10–7–3). The No. 12 Bulldogs will attempt to fend off the No. 22 Raiders, who sit just two points back from the Elis in the ECAC standings. The next night, the Bulldogs will face Cornell (11–11–5, 9–8–3) in the last regular season matchup of the season.
“We’ve had a solid week of practice and we’re definitely ready for the weekend,” forward John Hayden ’17 said. “We are excited for the opportunity to play two tough opponents and obviously this is a special weekend for our seniors.”
These final two matchups have huge implications for Bulldogs in terms of both ECAC and Ivy standings. While the Cleary Cup has already been claimed by Quinnipiac, Yale still has a chance to secure third place in the league with three points over the weekend. Just two points will give Yale much better positioning in the ECAC tournament with a first-round playoff bye.
In the Ivy League, Yale currently sits atop first place with 14 points, although Dartmouth is behind by just one. The Big Green will face Princeton on Friday, and a loss to the Tigers would mean Yale would clinch its 12th Ancient Eight title since 1981 and the first since its 2012–13 National Championship season. If Dartmouth wins, Yale can still earn sole possession of the title with a win against Cornell on Saturday.
The last time the Bulldogs took on the Raiders, in November, the Elis came away with a 3–1 victory off of goals by three different Bulldogs and a stellar performance by goaltender Alex Lyon ’17. Colgate, currently ranked fourth in the ECAC, is coming off of a home sweep against Union and RPI. While Yale boasts the top-ranked defense with an average of 1.59 goals per game and the No. 2 goalie in the nation in Lyon, Colgate has also excelled on defense this year. The Raiders are ranked No. 7 in the nation and have the NCAA shutout leader this year, Charlie Finn, in net. Tyson Spink and Kyle Baun lead Colgate with 12 goals each.
Forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 noted that the team has been focused on securing a first-round bye and the Ivy League title for the past four months.
“We have a chance to clinch a bye on Friday night for the first round of the playoffs against Colgate and then Saturday night against Cornell we have a chance to win the Ivy league. Both of these are goals that we had established for ourselves at the beginning of the year so it’s important that we go out and take care of business,” DiChiara said. “Clinching a bye is huge for us, getting that extra week to get everyone rested and healthy is important as we look to make a long postseason run throughout the playoffs.”
The competition will only get stiffer for the Bulldogs on Saturday night as they face off against the Big Red and the No. 3 defense in the nation. Leading Cornell’s defense, which has allowed just 1.85 goals per game this season, is top-ranked goaltender Mitch Gillam. The last time Yale and Cornell met, the Big Red dealt the Bulldogs a 3–2 loss despite Yale outshooting the Big Red by a wide margin. Christian Hilbrich carries Cornell’s offensive force, and he currently leads the team with eight goals.
With the ECAC tournament looming on the horizon next week, Yale has already secured home ice should they play in the first round. If they clinch a bye, tournament competition for the Bulldogs will begin with quarterfinals on March 13.
“This is a huge weekend for us moving into the ECAC tournament,” defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16 said. “With these games carrying so much weight a sweep this weekend will give us momentum and confidence to hopefully carry us a long way into the postseason.”
Both pucks are scheduled to drop on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at Ingalls Rink.