After three weeks, six games and 1,036 miles on the road, the Yale men’s hockey team is coming home.
For the first time this season, the No. 10 Bulldogs (4–1–1, 2–1–1 ECAC) will hit Ingalls Rink as they host Ivy League foe Cornell (5–1–0, 3–1–0) on Friday night. Yale will again look to defend home ice on Saturday when Colgate (4–7–0, 1–3–0) arrives to challenge the Elis.
“It’s kind of a dream come true to play in the Whale,” freshman forward Andrew Gaus ’19 said. “We showed up in August and have been practicing and working out here every day, but to actually play a game here will be pretty amazing.”
The Bulldogs come away from last weekend’s slate having tasted defeat for the first time in the 2015–16 season. Nevertheless, after the Bulldogs’ first negative result of the season — a 3–2 overtime loss at RPI of which head coach Keith Allain ’80 said “I thought we were the better team” — Yale bounced back the following night in Schenectady, New York with a 2–1 overtime win over Union College.
The team looks to build on the lessons it learned in New York as it prepares for another pair of ECAC Hockey opponents. The Big Red is knocking on the door of the USA Today Top 15 and has only lost to No. 2 Quinnipiac, which boasts an 11–0–0 record. And though the Raiders of Colgate have struggled in the early going, Allain and the Bulldogs are well aware of the possibility of another tight weekend of conference play.
“I think the way our league is, every game is going to be a one-goal game going into the third period,” Allain said. “So the more comfortable you get in that environment, the more successful you’ll be.”
First up for Yale is Cornell, which sits second among Ivy teams in the ECAC Hockey standings. Though it lost both its 2014–15 All-ECAC skaters to graduation, each of whom is now playing professional hockey, the Big Red has not missed a beat.
Cornell’s scoring defense is almost as formidable as its top-10 unit from last season, currently placing 11th nationwide. Moreover, though it ranked in the bottom 10 of Division I in scoring offense a year ago, Cornell is now tied for eighth in the country in that same category.
On top of the team’s impressive metrics, the squad from Ithaca will bring its typical size to Ingalls — just six Cornell skaters stand under six feet tall, compared to 11 Bulldogs.
“They play differently than a lot of teams in our league,” Allain said. “They’re really big, and they want to play a puck-possession game down low in the offensive zone and kind of grind you down. It’s really going to be a matchup of our quickness against their size.”
The following night, the Bulldogs will face a Colgate team arriving in New Haven fresh off a Friday night game at Brown. The Raiders dropped both games of a home-and-home this past weekend against Cornell, and their only conference win has come against Princeton, which has finished in the basement of the ECAC Hockey standings each of the past two seasons.
Nevertheless, Yale will have to deal with the quickness of the Raiders only 24 hours after combating the physicality of the Big Red. The two New York teams’ dramatically different styles — the Cornell roster lists 15 skaters who weigh more than 200 pounds, while Colgate has just three such players — may present an unusual challenge for the Elis.
“Colgate plays a little bit more like we do,” Allain said. “They have quick, dynamic forwards. They pressure the puck well and they’re good in transition, so there’ll be two completely different opponents from Friday to Saturday night.”
But by the end of the weekend, the Big Red and the Raiders will have at least one thing in common: they will have each played a game at Yale.
And for the Bulldogs, who have been waiting for months to take the ice at the Whale, those games cannot come soon enough.
“I’ve even had other opponents who said that this is their favorite place to play,” forward JM Piotrowski ’19 said. “All the anticipation’s there, and [Friday] is finally here.”
Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.