With the anticipated 2019 season finally underway, the Yale men’s hockey team will hit the road this weekend to compete against Colgate and No. 4 Cornell in New York.
Last weekend, the Bulldogs (1–1, 1–1 ECAC Hockey) split two matches against Brown (1–1, 1–1), including a 3–2 win at Ingalls Ice Rink and a 5–1 defeat in Providence. In the home opener, forward Curtis Hall ’22 scored two of three goals for the Blue and White. Forward Cole Donhauser ’23 notched his first career goal and the sole point for Yale on Sunday. Despite a strong showing in New Haven, a series of successful power plays assisted the Bears in later overpowering the Bulldogs.
The Elis, looking to improve their neutral record in the Empire State, compete against the Raiders (1–4–3, 0–0) on Friday and the Big Red (2–0, 0–0) on Saturday. Yale holds not only a historical edge over Colgate, with a 52–49–6 record since 1916, but also a recent advantage, defeating the Raiders in the last four games. Cornell, projected to finish first in the ECAC, has lived up to the early-season hype. The club boasts an undefeated record thus far with a sweep of Michigan State last weekend 3–2 and 6–2. The Big Red has had a 85–63–8 lead over the Bulldogs since 1901.
“After last weekend, we needed to focus on playing a complete weekend,” captain and forward Evan Smith ’20 said. “We need to dig deep and compete every shift with a gritty and hard working mentality. Of course we worked on systems and structure over the week as it’s still early in the year, but our main focus was on a high, constant work ethic every practice to prepare us for the weekend.”
Facing both Colgate and Cornell over the same weekend is nothing new for the Elis. In February, the Bulldogs catapulted themselves just shy of first place in their conference after defeating the Raiders and the Big Red in one of the best ECAC upsets of the 2018-19 season. Though the Blue and White had home-ice advantage, there were terrific performances from a plethora of players that awarded Yale this pair of victories.
Colgate is coming hot off a game against a nationally ranked foe, No. 11 Providence. Clinging to a 1–1 tie in the second, a behind-the-net apple perfectly found its way into the slot with a Friar one-timing the biscuit to the top shelf to hand the Raiders a 2–1 disadvantage heading into the third. From there, a quick Providence breakout and a lucky rebound handed Colgate a two-goal deficit with under 15 minutes remaining.
Yet they don’t call the two-goal advantage the most dangerous lead in hockey for nothing, as the Raiders demonstrated tenacious grit and equalized the game in the span of four minutes. Most impressive was the fact that both Raider goals came after two-minute penalty kills. While neither team was able to light the lamp in overtime, Colgate skated off the ice content with a tie and will head into Friday’s matchup against the Elis with momentum, having rallied against the then-seventh-ranked hockey club in the country.
Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Bulldogs have won 10 out of 12 games against the Raiders, tied one and lost only one. This power dynamic is expected to manifest again in this weekend’s match-up with Yale entering as the favorite. Colgate showcases a losing record, yet it has had four games against top-20 teams.
“Headed into the weekend, we are focused on taking big points in our league and on our team goals and accomplishing those because they will give us the best chance to win,” forward Dante Palecco ’21 said. “[The] boys are excited to hit the road and beat two good teams in their buildings.”
United States College Hockey Online ranks Cornell No. 4 in the nation, while Yale does not appear in the top 30. Other than its current record, another factor regarding Cornell’s high placement may be the return of several key players including forward Morgan Barron, the Big Red’s highest scorer. Along with Barron, star forwards Cam Donaldson and Michael Regush also return to the ice. Regush has already contributed much this year, scoring two goals against Michigan State. Last spring, Yale graduated its 2018-19 lead scorer, Joe Snively ’19.
Cornell began this season in a similar place as their last one with a two-game series against Michigan State. However, the outcomes could not have been more different. The Big Red was completely stunned by the Spartans, getting swept in a series that they were heavily favored to sweep themselves. Last week, Cornell made sure to return the favor and outscored Michigan State 9–4.
Cornell capitalized on several power plays, energizing the Big Red’s sweep. They scored goals on five of the 14-man advantages. This could spell trouble for the Elis, as they are fresh off a game where the Bears found the net on four consecutive plays over the last two periods.
“We lost the special teams battle last weekend, so special teams has been a big focus this week,” goalkeeper Corbin Kaczperski ’20 said. “Attention to detail and [competition] levels have to be raised, and those were all things addressed as a team. When we are playing Yale hockey, we are playing fast, physical and in your face hockey. Our forecheck is insatiable and teams will struggle to keep up with our speed. We do those things, and we will have success this weekend.”
The Bulldogs drop the puck against Colgate on Friday in Hamilton, N.Y. and play Cornell the following day in Ithaca. Both games begin at 7 p.m.
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