After two consecutive winless weekends, the Yale men’s hockey team will look to reverse its fortunes this Friday and Saturday.
The Bulldogs’ 2017–18 season started promisingly as the Bulldogs split their opening series with Brown before besting then-No. 3 Harvard in a dominating 5–2 victory the following weekend. Since then, however, the Elis (3–6–0, 3–5–0 ECAC Hockey) have won just a single game and will look to snap a four-game losing streak as they hit the road to face a mediocre Rensselaer team they swept in 2016 (2–9–3, 1–4–1) and defending co-conference champion and No. 19 Union (8–6–1, 5–1–0).
“The potential is there and we need to continue to focus on the details that have helped us progress to this point,” forward Will D’Orsi ’20 said. “Our team is always improving and I believe we have more to gain and improve on in the coming weeks than almost any team in the country, so we’re eager to see some of those teams again and get a second crack at them.”
On Friday night, Yale will play an RPI team that sits second-to-last in the ECAC, above only a winless St. Lawrence. In last year’s meetings, Yale clinched a 3–2 overtime victory early in the year, before blowing out the Engineers in a 7–3 defeat just a month later. Although RPI is currently struggling through a five-game losing streak, one of the team’s two season wins came over Quinnipiac, which recently posted a 3–0 shutout over Yale.
Offensively, RPI sits in the middle of the conference, averaging 2.62 goals per game. Underclassmen lead the attack, as forwards Jacob Hayhurst, Troy York and Todd Burgess have tallied 11, eight and eight points respectively. After giving up a combined 12 goals in the last three losses, facing off against RPI’s inexperienced offense could hand Yale goaltender Sam Tucker ’19 the chance to improve his .901 save percentage, with help from veteran defenders Charlie Curti ’19, Adam Larkin ’18 and Anthony Walsh ’19.
On the other side of the ice, Yale’s depth will work to its advantage, as 12 different Bulldogs have tallied goals this season. The Elis are averaging just 2.56 goals per game, but RPI’s defensive struggles may give them a needed boost. The Engineers have struggled defensively, with goaltenders Linden Marshall and Chase Perry splitting time in the net, and the two goalies have shipped an average of three goals a game. Still, after consecutive scoreless games, forward Joe Snively ’19 and the rest of the Eli offense will need to bring back the momentum they carried earlier in the season in order to secure a win.
“Our focus right now is beating RPI Friday night,” head coach Keith Allain said. “We have a huge sense of urgency where we wanna win the game on Friday night. And the fact of the matter is, whether we win or lose it we’ve gotta go by that one and get ready for Saturday. That’s the way it works in hockey so our urgency right now is focused on figuring out how to beat RPI.”
Following their encounter with the Engineers, the Bulldogs will turn their attention to a date with the Dutchmen in Schenectady on Saturday. Union is coming off a stellar weekend series against national power No. 6 North Dakota on the road in Grand Forks in which it defeated the Fighting Sioux 4–1 on Friday, before earning a draw the next night. The Dutchmen are 8–1–1 in their last 10 contests after losing their first five games, and they enjoyed tremendous success last year, sharing the ECAC regular season championship with Harvard.
Since 2012, the Bulldogs are just 2–8–1 against Union, including a pair of 5–3 defeats in the 2016–17 slate. Fortunately for Yale, the two Dutchmen who scored or assisted on seven of Union’s ten goals versus the Elis last season, first-team all-league forwards Spencer Foo and Mike Vecchione, both graduated. However, the Dutchmen haven’t missed a beat in their absence: They rank second in the ECAC in goals per game and are just one game behind No. 3 Clarkson for the top spot in the conference standings race.
Union’s offensive successes have been further bolstered by the emergence of goaltender Darion Hanson. In his first season of college hockey, the 6-foot-3 netminder is seventh nationally with a 1.72 goals-against-average and tenth overall with a .928 save percentage. However, he has split time with fellow goalie Jake Kupsky and did not play against North Dakota last weekend. Regardless of who starts between the pipes for the Dutchmen, the Bulldogs will need to find ways to generate more scoring chances on offense after being shut out in their last two games.
“We didn’t get the results we were looking for over break, but we are moving in the right direction,” forward Ted Hart ’19 said. “The team is staying positive and I think we will find ourselves in the win column this coming weekend.”
This weekend also presents a prime opportunity for the Bulldogs’ nation-worst power play to begin trending in the right direction. Rensselaer and Union are 35th and 46th respectively in penalty killing out of the 60 Division I teams, the worst combined ranking of any of the teams that Yale will face in its remaining weekend series. On 44 power play opportunities, the Bulldogs have scored only two goals, the same number of power-play goals they tallied in their first game against the Dutchmen last season. As a whole, the Elis netted eight power-play scores in their four most recent games versus RPI and Union.
Yale will drop the puck against Rensselaer at 7 p.m. on Friday before taking on Union at 7 p.m. the following night.
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