The No. 19 Yale men’s ice hockey team returns home this weekend, coming off a dramatic 3–2 comeback victory against Rensselaer to earn a split on their first road trip of the season.
The Bulldogs (2–1–0, 1–1–0 ECAC Hockey) opened up their conference slate last weekend with a demoralizing loss to No. 16 Union, followed by an overtime win against the Engineers. This weekend, the Bulldogs host Colgate (1–4–4, 0–1–1) and Ivy rival Cornell (0–2–1, 0–1–1), which sits just below Yale in the ECAC standings in ninth and 10th place, respectively.
“I think Yale hockey has an identity, that we’ve had for the last couple of years … and we want to have some of [those] elements, but it’s also a new year with a new group, so we need to establish a new identity,” defender Adam Larkin ’18 said. “That character win on the road, our first road win of the year, is certainly exciting and I think a good hint of the character that this team has.”
A year ago, the Elis swept Colgate, winning 3–1 at home, beat Cornell on the road and fought the Big Red to a 0–0 tie at Ingalls Rink. Although both opponents have gotten off to a slow start — neither team has won on the road — they will be hungry for a win and can provide Yale with a tough test.
Colgate opened its ECAC slate last weekend with a 1–1 tie against No. 10 Harvard before dropping a 2–0 decision to Dartmouth. The standout Raider in both games was goaltender Charlie Finn, who made 41 saves against Harvard before holding Dartmouth scoreless for 57 minutes, saving 26 out of 27 shots.
The vibrant Yale attack will challenge Finn and the Colgate defense. The Bulldogs have scored 10 goals so far in their three games. Forward and captain John Hayden ’17 leads the team with three strikes, while forward Ted Hart ’19 and Larkin have each contributed two tallies. Forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 leads the NCAA in assists per game with four in three games, while forwards Frankie DiChiara ’17 and Joe Snively ’19 and defender Chandler Lindstrand ’20 are all at one point per game.
The Raider defense has been improving in recent weeks, conceding eight goals in their last four games after allowing 21 in their first five. The Colgate penalty kill has weathered 89.2 percent of its penalties — good for 10th in the nation overall.
This special teams proficiency will come in handy against a Yale power play that sits tied for the NCAA lead when on the player advantage, converting on a full third of its opportunities. Five of the six Yale goals last weekend came on the player advantage, including every goal against Union, and the Bulldogs will look to keep their power play firing.
“All three of the goals on the power play came from just getting the puck on net regardless of whether they were quality shots or quality chances,” Hayden said. “Not passing up on shooting opportunities will benefit us moving forward [because] a lot of the time, the dirty goals are the ones that win games.”
Colgate has not found the back of the net in its last 114 minutes of hockey and the Raiders have averaged 2.22 goals per game over the course of the season, with no player scoring more than three goals in nine games played. Forward Adam Dauda leads the team with three tallies, and four other Colgate skaters have two. The offensive threat could come from any area, however, as 14 Raiders have lit the lamp so far this season.
Cornell has also failed to fire on all cylinders early in the season. The Big Red, winless so far this season, will be feeling the pressure to find its elusive first victory.
Last weekend, Cornell drew Dartmouth 1–1 in its ECAC opener before falling 4–3 to Harvard, with a late rally falling just short. Both of Cornell’s defeats this season have come by just one goal, and they have remained competitive throughout.
The Big Red’s leading scorer, forward Mitch Vanderlaan, has notched two goals in three games. Cornell has scored only six goals in the first three games, so the young Yale defense that conceded seven goals last weekend has an opportunity to shut the Big Red down. So, too, does goaltender Patrick Spano ’17, who earned praise from his coach for his play last weekend.
“I thought Patrick had a really good weekend for us,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “That’s what you’re going to need. We’re not looking for a goalie to steal a game for us, but there are going to be times in a hockey game when you just need to weather a storm, and that’s what he did for us [at times this weekend].”
Like Yale, Cornell’s last three goals have come on the power play, and it is 10th in the nation on the player advantage. Freshman defender Yanni Kaldis has already become a key player on the power-play unit, assisting on all three Big Red power-play goals against the Crimson.
Cornell’s penalty kill, meanwhile, has allowed only two goals on 16 chances and held Harvard’s nationally leading power-play unit to only one goal in four attempts. The flying Bulldog power play will pose an equally big challenge, especially given Yale’s success on the player advantage against an RPI team that had led the NCAA in penalty-kill percentage going into the game last weekend.
“We’ve been focusing on ourselves up to this point and we will continue to do so,” Hayden said. “All of these games in the ECAC really come down to who’s sticking to our system like we did against RPI on Saturday night. We’ll continue to build chemistry with our younger guys, our new linemates, and I think [by] doing that we’ll definitely succeed going forward.”
The Bulldogs face off at 7 p.m. both nights at Ingalls Rink.