For the Yale men’s hockey team, it may seem daunting to face a crosstown rival that has defeated the Bulldogs in each of their 11 previous meetings. Throw in the fact that head coach Keith Allain ’80 is in South Korea to coach the United States Olympic squad, and the climb may seem even steeper.
But so it goes for the Bulldogs (11–11–1, 6–9–1 ECAC), who will look to best Quinnipiac (11–13–4, 6–8–2) when the pair faces off at Ingalls Rink on Friday night. In Allain’s absence, the Bulldogs look to interim coach and former Bobcat netminder Josh Siembida in a pivotal game against his alma mater. The following night, Yale will turn its attention to Princeton (10–10–3, 7–8–1) in an encounter with the ECAC’s second-ranked scoring offense.
“We’re all fighting for a comfortable playoff spot, whether it’s a bye or a home seed, so every game is important from here,” Siembida said.
On Friday evening, the Bulldogs will take to the ice at Ingalls Rink against rival Quinnipiac, which boasts a 12–1–4 record against Yale since 2012. A win against the Bobcats would represent Yale’s first victory in the series since a 4–0 rout in the 2013 NCAA National Championship.
Even more important than bragging rights for the two foes is positioning in the ECAC standings race, considering just a trio of weeks remain in the regular season. Yale and Quinnipiac are neck and neck in the bottom half of the table, where the ninth-place Bulldogs sit just one point behind the eighth-place Bobcats. Assuring a spot in the ECAC’s optimum octet is a high priority for the pair of Nutmeg State rivals since the top eight teams are guaranteed to play at home in the first conference playoff series.
While Quinnipiac posted a 3–6–3 record from December to January, the Bobcats began February by knocking off then-No. 4 Clarkson before dominating St. Lawrence in a three-goal victory on the ensuing evening. Yale is also coming off a sweep over Arizona State and will look to translate that momentum into a late-season run, though the Bulldogs will need to limit the effectiveness of freshman phenom Odeen Tufto in order to come out on top. In his first season of collegiate action, Tufto is first in the ECAC with 24 assists to go alongside his seven goals.
Yale, which required a pair of overtime periods to prevail over the Sun Devils, will need to put together a complete performance against Quinnipiac in order to emerge victorious. In their last five games against Yale, the Bobcats have outscored the Elis by a combined margin of 13–2 in the first and third periods of those games. Staying out of the penalty box would also be wise for the two squads, as their earlier meeting in November featured a combined 43 penalty minutes on 16 infrations.
“The special teams [Friday night] will be very important,” defender Adam Larkin ’18 said. “Our power play has been struggling a little bit recently, but we’re going to be working on it this week and I think it’ll be successful when the time comes. Being smart and disciplined on the penalty kill and using that as motivation and getting some momentum will be important.”
Although Princeton barely scraped a one-goal win over Yale when the teams met back in November, the Tigers will arrive in New Haven on Saturday looking to further extend a four-game winning streak that includes two conference sweeps and a win over then-No. 3 Clarkson. Despite the recent success that has secured Princeton a tie for sixth in the ECAC standings, the Tigers have shown inconsistency with a resume of both impressive wins and unexpected losses.
In addition to a combined 11–1 deficit to No. 4 Cornell and Colgate to ring in the New Year, Princeton’s losses include defeats at the hands of two teams ranked in the bottom 10 nationally: an overtime 4–3 fall to Arizona State and a 3–0 loss to Brown. However, the Tigers have also managed to tie No. 1 St. Cloud in consecutive games before besting a dominant Clarkson last weekend.
Offense seems to be the most developed aspect of Princeton’s game. The team boasts a 3.30 goal-per-game average, which ranks atop the leaderboard in the ECAC and eighth in the nation. Forward Max Veronneau leads a talented trio completed by fellow forwards Ryan Kuffner and David Hallisey, who have tallied 31 and 24 points respectively this season. Additionally, the Tigers have averaged five goals per game in the last four games in comparison to Yale’s two.
With an unwavering offense, the biggest chink in Princeton’s armor is in net. The Tigers have allowed more goals than the Bulldogs this season, and their netminder Ryan Gerland sits well behind Yale’s likely goaltender for Saturday night, Corbin Kaczperski ’20, in save percentage. In the last clash of the Bulldogs and Tigers, Yale managed to put up four goals on Ferland with nine different Elis tallying points on the night. After recording 102 shots on net last weekend, Yale seems ready to fully capitalize on its improving offense heading into the weekend.
“I think [last weekend] is huge for our confidence,” forward Ted Hart ’19 said. “The weekend before we only scored one goal, and we scored seven this past weekend. I think that’s good for our goal-scoring confidence, and I think we’ll be able to build off that.”
The weekend action begins at 7 p.m. on Friday night against Quinnipiac and continues at 7 p.m. on Saturday against Princeton.
Joey Kamm | email@example.com
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