Last month, when Cornell and Colgate paid the Yale men’s hockey team a visit at Ingalls Rink, the Elis had their most successful weekend of the season, coming away with two excellent performances and three points.
Since their 3–3 tie against No. 2 Cornell (20–3–2, 14–2–2, ECAC) and dominant victory over then-No. 19 Colgate (12–13–5, 8–8–2), the Bulldogs (13–11–1, 8–9–1) have continued to gather energy heading into the final weeks of the regular season. Riding the momentum of consecutive four-point weekends, including a monumental win over Quinnipiac last Friday, the Elis head to upstate New York to face off against the Raiders and the Big Red.
“[We can continue our momentum] by just sticking to what we have been doing the past few weeks,” goaltender Corbin Kaczperski ’20 said. “Guys have a lot of confidence right now because of those wins, and that confidence is showing in our games. We are playing looser, and because of that we are making a few more plays than normal.”
The last time Colgate and Yale faced off, the Bulldogs delivered an unexpected four-goal defeat to the Raiders. Forward Ted Hart ’19 notched two goals, which added to tallies from forwards Robbie DeMontis ’20, Joe Snively ’19 and Mitchell Smith ’20 to help earn his team a win.
Colgate, whose skaters managed to put up a lone goal against Kaczperski, would go on to drop its next three games before achieving a four-point weekend against Harvard and Rensselaer. Last weekend, the Raiders tied No. 7 Clarkson in overtime to secure a fifth-place conference ranking, one spot above the Elis.
Led by forward Bobby McMann, the Colgate offense averages a mere 2.23 goals per game. However, Yale’s opponent boasts twice as many power-play goals as the Elis, which will work to its advantage if players like defender Billy Sweezey ’20 and forward Evan Smith ’20 see too much time in the penalty box. The duo currently account for over a third of the team’s total penalty minutes, including a pair of 15-minute majors for Smith. If Yale’s defense, anchored by Tucker in the goal, can limit errors and remain focused on Colgate’s low-driving offense, it should be able to produce the same result it did last month.
A notable change from the teams’ last meeting will be Colgate’s goaltender. Sophomore goalie Colton Point has not played for the Raiders since the team’s 3–1 loss to Union on Feb. 3. Point, who ranks second nationally with a save percentage of .946, has since been replaced in the net by senior Bruce Racine. Despite seeing action in just seven games during his first three years, Racine recorded 34 and 38 saves against St. Lawrence and Clarkson last weekend, and the Bethesda, Maryland native will still pose a sizable obstacle to the Eli offense.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position to control our own destiny going into the first round of the playoffs,” defender Adam Larkin ’18 said. “Home ice is a big deal in the playoffs and the more that we can keep rolling as we approach the playoffs, the more we like our chances when we get there. Colgate is a team we can catch in the standings and Cornell is a great test for us to prove to ourselves that we can compete with a top-ranked team in our conference and in the country.”
When they arrive at Lynah Rink on Saturday, the Bulldogs will have some added confidence against the nationally ranked Big Red following a 3–3 tie at home versus Cornell five weeks ago. Despite posting just a 2–4–3 mark against its adversary from Ithaca in their previous nine meetings, the Elis forced overtime with a late goal from captain and forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18 and nearly emerged with an upset victory. Following that tie, the Big Red reeled off six straight victories — but the team is just 1–1–1 in its last three games, a run that included a shocking 2–1 loss to 11th-place Rensselaer that knocked them off the No. 1 ranking.
Considering that only six ECAC teams have earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Tournament with 11 or more losses since 2003, the Bulldogs’ margin of error heading into this weekend is incredibly slim. With Yale currently sitting at 30th in the PairWise Rankings, a win on the road at No. 2 Cornell would provide a significant boost to the Elis’ resume, especially combined with another victory over Colgate.
“We just have to make sure we build off the offensive success and confidence in scoring areas we had on Saturday,” Hitchcock said. “If we’re creating a lot of grade A chances and shooting with confidence even a great goalie like him will crack.”
But to earn a big win against the Big Red on senior weekend in Ithaca, the Bulldogs will need to find a way past freshman phenom goalie Matthew Galajda, who leads the nation with a 1.47 goals-against average in his first season of collegiate action. Galajda also lays claim to .941 save percentage. Although he stopped 26 of 29 shots in Cornell’s earlier bout with the Elis, he is coming off a 50-save combined shutout of No. 7 Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Rattling the young netminder early on will be key for the Bulldogs as Cornell drops to 2–2–1 in games this season in which its opposition has tallied the opening goal.
Yale will also need to avoid the mid-game scoring droughts that plagued the team in its sweep over Quinnipiac and Princeton last weekend at Ingalls Rink. On Friday, the Elis went nearly 23 minutes between their opening goal and their second score in the middle frame, allowing the Bobcats to net a pair of power-play goals during that drought that nearly cost Yale in the one-goal win. Again on Saturday, a pair of second-period goals from the Tigers dampened a 3–0 lead after the first period for the Bulldogs before Yale eventually pulled away in the 7–2 victory.
Yale will drop the puck against Colgate at 7:05 p.m. on Friday from the Class of 1965 Arena before traveling to Lynah Arena on Saturday to take on No. 2 Cornell at 7 p.m.
Joey Kamm | email@example.com
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