Courtesy of Steve Musco
The men’s hockey team concludes its regular season this weekend with a pair of crucial home games against rivals Princeton and No. 5 Quinnipiac. The Bulldogs, who enter the weekend ranked fifth in ECAC standings, have the opportunity to finish anywhere from tied first to seventh in the conference.
Yale (13–11–3, 11–8–1 ECAC Hockey) faces Princeton (8–16–3, 6–12–2) on Friday night before turning to Quinnipiac (23–7–2, 12–6–2) on Saturday. Last weekend, the Elis struggled on the road, losing to Dartmouth 2–0 before giving up a 3–0 game to Harvard the next night. Though goalies Corbin Kaczperski ’20 and Sam Tucker ’19 demonstrated impressive defensive skills between the pipes, the Bulldog offense was unable to convert opportunities on the other side of the ice. Compared to the prior weekend, when Yale swept Colgate and then-No. 8 Cornell with brilliant plays, the Bulldogs faltered at a crucial moment last weekend. The Elis have the chance to turn the momentum around this Friday.
“There wasn’t a ton of positives last weekend,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I think the thing I’m hanging my hat on is the weekend before was so darn good, so I know what we’re capable of. I know what our guys can do, and I believe they can get it done this weekend.”
The last time Yale matched up against the Tigers was earlier this month, when the Bulldogs lost an early lead that led to a 4–1 loss. Late in the opening frame, forward Mitchell Smith ’20 took a pass from forward Brett Jewell ’21 and fired a wrister over Princeton goalie Austin Shaw’s left shoulder. Throughout the next two periods, the Tigers responded with four consecutive goals, including three in the last 10 minutes. Tucker concluded the game with 28 saves, including a few first-rate maneuvers to blank Princeton’s man-advantages.
The Tigers, who are currently ranked 11th in the conference, enter Friday’s match coming off a three-point weekend at home. Players to watch out for include forward Ryan Kuffner, who is ranked second in the nation in both goals and points per game, and goaltender Shaw, who secured the win for the Tigers the last time Yale played Princeton. The Tiger line of Kuffner, Alex Riche and Max Veronneau comes off a banner performance against St. Lawrence last Saturday.
“This last weekend will determine where we place in the standings and whether or not we get a bye for the first round of playoffs,” Mitchell Smith ’20 said. “Our team knows what is on the line with these games coming up, and I feel we are prepared. We’ve had a good week or practice by having lots of energy and being positive towards one another on and off the ice. We owe both [Princeton and Quinnipiac] our best game because we failed to do so a couple weekends ago.”
The Bulldogs wrap-up the regular season with a crunch game against local rivals Quinnipiac. The Bobcats, who have scored an astounding 118 times this season, 19 tallies more than any other ECAC Hockey team, inflicted a season-high 4–0 defeat on the Elis the last time the teams faced off. Kaczperski stopped a career-high 46 shots in the losing effort, while the Bulldog offense struggled to get anything going. The team from Hamden, meanwhile, demonstrated textbook offensive play. The Bobcats’ second goal that night was particularly memorable. Peter DiLiberatore guided a pass to William Fällström, who sat on the doorstep to chip the rubber over the unfortunate Kaczperski.
Despite the mismatch last time out, Quinnipiac is only third in the standings, three points ahead of Yale. There is plenty of promise for a Bulldog side that has won five out of its last six games at home, scoring 20 and conceding 12. Ingalls Rink is already sold out for the Saturday game.
This weekend’s matches also mark the last home regular season games for the Elis’ senior players: Tucker, defensemen Charlie Curti ’19 and Anthony Walsh ’19 and forwards Andrew Gaus ’19, Ted Hart ’19, J.M. Piotrowski ’19 and Joe Snively ’19.
“It will definitely be an emotional weekend for all the seniors,” Hart said. “We’ve spent the majority of our college years inside Ingalls, and it’s not easy knowing we’re running out of time there. The team is very excited to finish off the regular season strong and build momentum heading into the playoffs. We know we can be a very dangerous team when we’re playing at our best, so we’re looking forward to finding our stride against Princeton and Quinnipiac.”
The puck drops against the Tigers at 7 p.m.
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