A huge rivalry win over then-No. 3 Harvard last Friday showed the Yale men’s hockey team at its vibrant best. But the Elis followed that victory by slipping up in a disappointing loss against Dartmouth on Saturday. This weekend, the Bulldogs will again face off against one ranked and one unranked squad, while looking to maintain the same performance level across both nights.
The Bulldogs (2–2–0, 2–2–0 ECAC Hockey) host moribund St. Lawrence (1–8–1, 0–1–1) on Friday and a talented No. 11 Clarkson (6–3–1, 2–0–0) on Saturday in their first complete weekend of home play in the 2017–18 season. After splitting its first two weekends of the season and dropping a pair of winnable games, Yale will look to wrap up a weekend sweep.
“Obviously the Dartmouth game wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for, but in every game there’s positive and negative takeaways,” defender Brian Matthews ’21 said. “With those in mind, we spent this week working hard and preparing for the weekend, and we’re excited for the opportunity to get two wins.”
After suffering a 5–2 loss and 2–2 tie in last year’s matchups against St. Lawrence, the Bulldogs will look to avenge themselves on Friday. This season, the Saints have played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, having already faced four nationally ranked opponents including No. 2 North Dakota, No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 8 Providence. However, St. Lawrence has won just one game so far, and its losses include defeats to unranked teams as well.
The team’s lone win fittingly came in the second game of a double header against then No. 5 Wisconsin, who snagged St. Lawrence’s star goaltender Kyle Hayton for the 2017–18 season. Hayton, the 2016–17 ECAC Goaltender of the Year, graduated from St. Lawrence last spring and has since transferred to Wisconsin to use his remaining college eligibility as a Badger while pursuing a graduate degree.
Special teams are another crucial aspect of the game for the Bulldogs to focus on. St. Lawrence’s 170 penalty minutes represent the most in the ECAC, which could give Yale the opportunity to improve its dismal one-for-24 power-play record, the worst in the country.
The Elis converted 20 percent of their player-advantage opportunities a year ago, but have missed the physical net-front presence of graduated captain John Hayden ’17, who netted 12 times on the power play last season. Forward Frank DiChiara ’17 chipped in three power-play finishes as well, and played a key role on the first unit controlling the blue line and creating opportunities with his slap shot. The duo’s departure — as well as the injury-induced absence of defender Henry Hart ’18, a converted forward who became one of the team’s more offensive-minded blue liners — has left the power-play foundering.
“We’re not getting nearly enough shots on net on the power play,” forward Ted Hart ’19 said. “If we can get more shots through to the goalie and create traffic in front of the net then opposing teams will have to be more passive on the penalty kill which will open up more chances for us.”
Yale’s offense has relied heavily on underclassmen, forwards Evan and Mitchell Smith ’20, forward Robbie DeMontis ’20, Luke Stevens ’20 and Kevin O’Neil ’21 to create offensive opportunities. The Smiths have displayed their potential this season after struggling to produce in the offensive zone in their rookie seasons. This year, the twins have already chalked up a combined six points, after posting a total of just 14 all of last season. However, forward Andrew Gaus ’19, the third member of the Bulldogs’ most effective line to this point, suffered a long-term injury on his first shift against the Big Green, leaving a hole in the lineup.
Following the matchup against the Saints, the Bulldogs will take on a nationally ranked team for the second time in as many weeks when they play host to Clarkson on Saturday. Over the past three seasons, Yale is 2–1–3 against the Golden Knights with three of those games going to either overtime or a shootout. However, Clarkson comes into Ingalls Rink sporting what might be its best team in recent memory.
The Golden Knights, who are seeking their first NCAA Tournament bid in a decade, currently rank first in Division I in scoring defense despite losing 2016–17 ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Defenseman Award winner James de Haas. Additionally, Clarkson has played one of the toughest schedules in college hockey, as six of its first 10 games came against No. 4 Minnesota, No. 8 Providence, No. 18 Western Michigan and No. 19 Penn State, with the ECAC squad posting a 3–2–1 record in those contests.
The driving force behind Clarkson’s defensive success has been the emergence of goaltender Jake Kielly. The 6-foot-2 netminder started in 28 of his team’s final 29 games as a freshman and has only improved in his sophomore campaign. A member of the 2016–17 ECAC All-Rookie team, Kielly ranks second in the nation with a .947 save percentage, as well as a 1.50 goals against average coming off marks of .911 and 2.56 a season ago.
“St Lawrence and Clarkson usually have big strong bodies on their team so we have to be ready for a physical game,” Mitchell Smith said. “That being said, if we use our speed and play at a fast pace that should work in our favor against them.”
Yale will drop the puck against St. Lawrence on Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on Clarkson at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
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