Coming off one win and two losses over Thanksgiving break, the Yale men’s hockey team looks to rectify its current losing streak with games against Rensselaer on Friday and Union on Saturday.
The Blue and White hit the road for its first pair of away games since early November. The Bulldogs appear to enter Friday’s game against the RPI Engineers (5–8–1, 2–4–1 ECAC Hockey) with history on their side, despite Yale entering with a worse record. The Elis boast a five-game winning streak against RPI, with the most recent tilt ending in a 4–0 victory. Four out of those five games were played at Ingalls Rink, and the Elis demonstrate less success against RPI when playing on enemy ice. Yale defeated the Engineers in the first round of the ECAC Hockey Tournament last March after not dropping a single game against the program that entire season. In that particular matchup, the Elis successfully utilized special teams play, capitalizing on two out of four power plays while killing three. Defenseman Jack St. Ivany ’22 registered three points for the Blue and White, one of which was the opening goal.
Union (11–3–0, 2–4 ECAC) meanwhile, has lost four of its previous five bouts — not scoring more than two goals during any part of that stretch. The Dutchmen played their best hockey in the most recent of those five games. They held the Princeton Tigers to one goal, notching a game-winning overtime goal with 16 seconds remaining to end a lowly four-game losing streak. While the Bulldogs have a meager eight matches to claim victory throughout their last 25 matchups with Union, the former has caught the latter in a poor stretch of hockey and will look to take full advantage come Saturday.
“We’re pretty excited for the upcoming games this weekend because it’s a good chance to take a step in the right direction and start moving forward as a group,” forward Teddy Wooding ’23 said. “We’re doing a lot of right things, but we’re just working on doing them more consistently. As soon as things become more automatic, I think we’ll start putting a chain of wins together and be a real threat to win a ring come playoff time.”
Yale and RPI, two ECAC foes, have shared a few competitors so far this season including St. Lawrence, No. 12 Harvard and No. 5 Clarkson. The Bulldogs and the Engineers experienced the same result against each of these teams — losses against the Crimson and the Golden Knights and a victory against the Saints.
RPI has returned its leading five scorers from the 2018–19 season: forwards Jacob Hayhurst, Ottoville Leppanen, Todd Burgess and Chase Zieky as well as defenseman Will Reilly. Reilly has thus far demonstrated significant success this season as well, contributing six points over the past eight games.
“We’ve typically been good at generating shots on goal, but a lot of times the difference in a game comes down to who can generate more gritty offense,” forward Will D’Orsi ’20 said. “If you can put pressure on the goalie with traffic and crash the net, it’s going to be all the more difficult for him to stop the puck.”
While Union’s hockey to begin the season has been nothing to write home about, the squad enters this weekend coming off its best and most exhilarating game of its young campaign. On the road against Princeton, Dutchmen goaltender Darion Hanson was equivalent to that of a brick wall in the first period. He stopped all of the Tiger’s 15 shot attempts and kept the game tied at zero heading into the second. However, after just four minutes had gone by in the middle period, Hanson faltered, as Princeton defenseman Matthew Thom sent in a blast from inside the blue line to break the scoreless tie. A Dutchmen power-play goal 10 minutes later, however, would knot the game up at one.
Hanson returned to first-period form to close out regulation, preventing any of the seven shots on goal from even so much as sniffing the back of the neck. Union’s defense also rose to the occasion — expertly killing off both of the Tiger’s power plays down the stretch to send the game into overtime. Yet, nothing seemed to be working for either team as the extra period wore on, and a tie seemed eminent. With less than 16 seconds left, however, first-year Dutchmen forward Gabriel Seger found himself in exactly the right place at the right time to bury a rebound and lift Union to a 2–1 victory.
“This week we’ve been working on getting our defensive zone coverage to be more efficient,” forward Mitchell Smith ’20 said. “We want to be more aggressive so we can recover the puck quickly and get right on offensive. In particular, we’ve been working on the low forward being able to close off and pin the other team effectively.”
The Bulldogs host RPI on Friday and Union on Saturday. The pucks are set to drop at 7 p.m. for both contests.
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