Following a weekend sweep of Union and Rensselaer, the Yale men’s hockey team will compete in the first ever Connecticut Ice Festival Tournament this weekend at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
The tournament consists of two ECAC Hockey teams as well as two non-conference foes: Yale (6–6–0, 8–9–0 ECAC Hockey), Quinnipiac (7–4–1, 13–8–1), Sacred Heart (14–8–2, 13–6–1 Atlantic Hockey) and UConn (9–10–4, 6–7–2 Hockey East). The Bulldogs will square off against Sacred Heart on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. after No. 17 Quinnipiac and UConn compete in the first semifinal at 4 p.m. On Sunday, the consolation game will be played at 3:30 p.m. while winners will play for the championship at 7 p.m.
“When we exit the weekend, we want to be crowned the first ever Connecticut Ice Champions,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “That’s our goal for the weekend. Our game is building and our team is growing. Our special teams have gotten better … Our team defense has gotten better … so I’d like to continue to build on that. And obviously we scored nine goals on the weekend, and I would like to continue to make sure that we are producing offense.”
Since their first meeting in 2009, the Elis have won six out of seven games against SHU, including their most recent 3–1 victory over the Pioneers in January 2019. Sacred Heart is ranked No. 28 according to USCHO, and the two teams have had no mutual competitors so far this season.
While a victory for the Bulldogs looks probable when viewing their history against the Massachusetts team, the Elis have yet to conquer a current top 30 side. Defeating the Pioneers would be a considerable accomplishment for the Blue and White. Nevertheless, the Elis greet the challenge head on.
“We’ve won a couple in a row here, so that makes the mood a little bit lighter here around the rink,” forward Luke Stevens ’20 said. “The guys have confidence going into the tournament, so I guess that’s all you can ask for. Obviously we won [against Union and RPI] in convincing fashion, and hopefully we can continue that on Saturday and Sunday … You have to take [the tournament] one day at a time, but we’re expecting to win it.”
While the Bulldogs appear to have gained some positive momentum with their pair of victories, SHU is coming off of a two-game weekend against Canisius that saw both a 3–3 tie and a 5–2 loss at the hands of the Golden Griffins. Currently, senior forward Jason Cotten leads Sacred Heart with 15 goals and nine assists, though he is closely followed by fellow senior forwards Vito Bavaro and Austin McIlmurray who each have registered 14 scores. As a collective group, the Pioneer senior class have totalled more than half of the team’s goals.
Meanwhile, Yale’s forward Curtis Hall ’22 and his 12 goals leads the squad, with the rest of the Bulldogs trailing behind. Additionally, Sacred Heart posts 33.4 shots and 3.83 goals per game, the latter ranking fourth in the nation, while the Blue and White averages 29.2 shots and 2.0 goals.
“Our guys have worked really hard, and we’ve paid attention to detail, and we’ve gradually gotten better,” Allain said. “You can look at one weekend to the next, but that’s not really fair. You have to look at the bigger picture. We’ve been playing better for a while, and we just have to keep our foot on the gas pedal.”
Though the season started out relatively slow for the Yale Bulldogs, the Elis have won six of their last eight games and are looking to build on that record.
Success on Saturday would put the Elis into the final with either Quinnipiac or UConn on Sunday. The Bobcats have won eight out of 10 past matches against the Huskies, including the last four. Meanwhile, Yale is 6–17–5 against Quinnipiac, with the Bobcats coming out victorious in nine of their past 10 meetings. Historically, against UConn, the Elis have been more successful, registering six wins to the Huskies’s one.
“The preparation is the same. Every game is a big game, but this weekend there’s a trophy on the line,” defenseman Chandler Lindstrand ’20 said. “Everyone wants to play their best game every game obviously, but this one almost has more meaning behind it. We’ve kind of found our groove as a team, so to say, so we are just looking to carry that momentum into this weekend.”
The festival will also include youth hockey games as well as on and off-ice clinics for players and their families.
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Correction, Jan. 27: A previous version of this article said Curtis Hall ’22 had scored eight season goals, when in fact he has scored 12.