This weekend the Yale men’s hockey team will hit the road for the first time in the new year as it heads to upstate New York for another pair of ECAC battles, including a matchup against the nation’s fourth-ranked team.
The first stop on the Bulldogs’ New York tour is Potsdam, where they will get a second chance at No. 4 Clarkson (18–4–2, 10–1–1 ECAC), who previously defeated the Elis 4–1. Saturday night should present an easier challenge for Yale, as St. Lawrence (4–18–2, 0–11–1) currently ranks last in the ECAC and just one place higher in the national standings.
“Moving forward, I think we need to handle the puck better and limit our turnovers,” forward Luke Stevens ’20 said on Sunday. “Hopefully next weekend we can go to St. Lawrence and Clarkson and get two big wins.”
Until last weekend, Clarkson seemed nearly unbeatable; the team had suffered just three losses all season, with two coming at the hands of then-No. 5 Minnesota. But last Friday the Golden Knights saw their 14-game winning streak end when they tied Harvard, and the team ultimately fell to Dartmouth in a one-goal loss the following night. Still, the top-ranked team boasts the highest goals-per-game average in the ECAC thanks to its leading scorer, forward Sheldon Rempal. Additionally, Golden Knight goaltender Jake Kielly ranks second nationally with a save percentage of 0.940 and held the Elis to just a single goal when the two teams met previously.
When Yale and Clarkson faced off in November, forward Dante Palecco ’21 notched the lone goal of the night for the Elis. But Yale’s offensive depth has only grown over the course of the season, with six different players contributing to the Bulldogs’ scoring last weekend alone. The Elis’ special teams also took a notable step forward last weekend recording three power-play goals and a shorthanded tally in an impressive 5–1 win over Rensselaer. Yale will undoubtedly need to sustain its recent offensive success in order to emerge victorious in Friday’s contest.
“Our league is so competitive that any team really can beat anyone, so I don’t think seeing Dartmouth beat Clarkson changes our mindset at all,” captain and forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 said. “We know they are a great team, [and] we know we have to play a great game to beat them.”
After taking on the nationally ranked Golden Knights, the Bulldogs will turn their attention to St. Lawrence, a team that ranks 55th and 56th nationally in scoring offense and scoring defense, respectively. Through 12 conference games, the Saints have yet to notch a ECAC victory but have lost by just a single goal in their last four contests and enter the weekend looking for their first conference result since a 4–4 draw with Rensselaer in early November.
One reason for the Saints’ newfound competitiveness has been their uncanny knack for lighting the lamp in the third period. Since Dec. 29, St. Lawrence has posted a 3–4–1 record, including two overtime losses, largely because of its eight third-period goals, the same number it had combined for in its first 16 games. Over that same stretch, the Saints have also tallied 24 total goals despite being one of the worst offensive teams in college hockey on the season and could pose a difficult test for the Elis at Appleton Arena, where Yale suffered a 5–2 defeat last season.
The Saints have struggled to compensate for the loss of a pair of first-team All-League players in defender Gavin Bayreuther and goaltender Kyle Hayton from a season ago. St. Lawrence, which led all ECAC teams in goals allowed in 2016–17, now ranks third-to-last in the conference in that category and also boasts the league’s worst penalty kill. Meanwhile, starting netminder Arthur Brey, who has shared time with fellow goalie Daniel Mannella this season, lays claim to an abysmal 0.898 save percentage and a 3.68 goals-against-average.
Saturday’s shootout with the Saints should present Yale’s power-play units with a prime opportunity to build on their immense success last weekend against Rensselaer. Despite coming into the game with just five power-play goals, the Bulldogs found their stride, going an impressive three-for-six on opportunities with an extra attacker in the four-goal victory. Expect the Elis’ power play to remain aggressive against a St. Lawrence squad that has conceded more power-play goals than the total number of games it has played in.
“We need to build on the positives from [that] game and use what we learned moving forward against Clarkson and St. Lawrence,” goalie Sam Tucker ’19 said. “While we would have liked to earn two more points, we feel that our team is continuing to grow and [last] weekend marked another step in that process.”
Yale will drop the puck against Clarkson on Friday at 7 p.m. from Cheel Arena, before heading 15 minutes northeast to take on St. Lawrence at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
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