After dropping both games last weekend, the Yale men’s hockey team returns to action with a road trip to upstate New York to face Cornell and Colgate.
The Elis (10–9–4, 6–7–3 ECAC Hockey) will look to avenge their earlier home defeats to the Big Red (15–6–2, 10–4–2) and the Raiders (6–17–5, 4–10–2). With the clock ticking down on the regular season, the Bulldogs look to bring home a pair of wins as they seek to regain lost ground in the race for ECAC playoff seeding.
“We need to play with more discipline,” forward Ted Hart ’19 said. “We need to get back to the structure that makes us successful, which is about taking away time and space from the opponent in all three zones. We need to play smarter in all three zones and create more offense off the rush.”
Last weekend’s twin losses not only brought the momentum of Yale’s six-game winning streak to a shuddering halt but dropped Elis to seventh place in the conference standings. Results elsewhere in the ECAC widened the chasm between the Bulldogs and the top four teams — which earn home ice in the opening round of the playoffs — to five points, a challenge that is nevertheless surmountable.
Cornell currently sits in the No. 4 spot in the conference after winning three consecutive contests. The Big Red earned a 5–3 win over league-leading No. 6 Union to start the month of February, kicking off a 13-goal outburst over its last three games.
The Bulldogs lost 6–3 to Cornell early in their fifth game of the season. Big Red forward Mitch Vanderlaan, who is tied for the team’s scoring lead, poured in a hat trick to power the visiting offense and sink the Elis into an early 3–0 deficit. Despite Yale’s attempt at a late comeback, Cornell goalkeeper Mitch Gillam made a season-high 39 saves to thwart the Bulldogs at Ingalls Rink.
The Big Red are coming off a 4–0 shutout victory against Colgate on Tuesday in which Gillam earned his second shutout of the season. The matchup is momentous not only in respect to the final ECAC standings, but also to the Ivy League title chase, with current runner up Cornell sitting just one place ahead of Yale. Therefore, every aspect of the Eli game will need to be firing on all cylinders to earn a victory.
Cornell has enjoyed particularly balanced scoring across the roster; no player has netted more than nine goals, but eight players have put in four or more. This even-keeled output is in stark contrast to the Elis, who have relied on their top line of forward captain and forward John Hayden ’17, forward Frank DiChiara ’17 and forward Joe Snively ’19 for the brunt of their offense. The trio is comfortably Yale’s leading active scoring threat, and last weekend just one other player found his way on the scoresheet.
“[The first forward line has] the ability to create offense every single night,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “They all have different strengths: Frankie and Hayden are two big boys, and Joe is small, slick and creative. Frankie has a heavy shot, he wins battles for pucks. Hayden is the first one in the forecheck, he can beat a guy down low and power a puck to the net. He also knows how to get open for Joe, and Joe finds him.”
Colgate occupies a different zip code in the standings from Cornell, lying only above doormats Rensselaer and Brown in 10th place. Despite their lowly position, the Raiders defeated Yale 4–1 in their first matchup of the season on Nov. 11. A highlight-reel display from netminder Charlie Finn provided Colgate with a margin of victory that belied the competitiveness of the game and the 37–28 Yale advantage in the shot count.
Finn has been unable to maintain that level of performance in net, however. The senior split time last weekend with freshman Colton Point, who has a better save percentage and has allowed fewer goals per game than his senior counterpart. The Raiders have struggled on the blueline this season, conceding four or more goals on 11 separate occasions.
Offensively, Colgate has struggled to light the lamp with any consistency or frequency, ranking as the nation’s fourth-worst offense. The team’s leading scorer, forward Tim Harrison, has found the back of the net just eight times in 28 games, while no other skater has more than five goals. The Raiders have mustered one or fewer goals nine times this season, including three shutouts.
Colgate has been much better offensively this year on the power play than in even-strength situations, which underlines the importance of the Yale penalty kill. The Eli special-teams unit has been playing well recently; despite conceding twice on the kill against Quinnipiac, the Bulldogs spent 18 minutes on the player disadvantage and limited the Bobcats to just two strikes served as a silver lining in the 5–2 defeat.
“We’re always pretty good on the kill,” goalie Patrick Spano ’17 said. “[Last weekend] the guys worked hard, they blocked a lot of shots. Obviously it’s tough to take the penalties we took, but the guys fought hard on the kill and were doing their job.”
With both games delayed one day by a blizzard, the Elis will face off against Cornell at 7 p.m. on Saturday and travel to Colgate for a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.